It’s restaurant opening season and last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview evening of Grillshack; a quick all day counter service grill, opening today on Beak Streak, Soho at 10am! It boasts a US diner interior, serving up simple and hearty grub with a new age ordering system.
I arrived early for my table and decided to sit back and do a bit of people watching whilst I waited for my plus 1 to arrive. Grillshack had already been open since 10am that morning, and yet I was surprised to see that it was still busy and bustling as it approached its close before today’s public debut. The giant signage that adorns the shop front was attracting the intrigue of many passers-by. They all stopped to peer through the glass in the hope that they could catch a glimpse of what was going down inside the belly of the street’s latest inhabitant. With Polpo, Byron and Flat Iron all close neighbours, it has found its home amongst pedigree establishments with proven track records of success. I was here to find out if it would be the same for the street rookie, Grillshack!
At first sight I was already impressed with the general look of the place. Its hipster font was big and bold, plastered across a shabby chic exterior, that effectively created the ‘shack’ atmosphere. The menu and instructions for the Grillshack experience were hanging next to the entrance. It’s a good idea to take note of the latter if you want to optimise the buying procedure and be done with all the qeueuing that has become a normality with newly opened eateries these days.
So what do they serve up at Grillshack? Well the stand out mains on the recipe are the grilled half chicken, the rump steak and last week’s most talked about fast food favourite, the mighty burger! They even do a breakfast menu that sounds equally delightful! However, we were here for the night fix so there was only one option in our minds. Dinner comprised of Bacon Cheeseburgers with Shoestring Fries, French Fries, Old Bay Popcorn and Free Re-Fill Sodas. The genius part of Grillshack though comes in the ordering process!
When it comes to informing the kitchen of your meaty requirements, there is more than one way of ordering at Grillshack. First is the obvious, and for some probably the easiest option; ordering at the bar with a friendly member of staff. A nice touch is the old farmhouse sink full of icey cold beers and beverages,waiting to be knocked back with a big intake of premium meat.
The alternative is to use Grillshack’s new technology, which is currently gaining them rather a lot of publicity! Whether you’re eating in or taking out, you can use the touchscreen checkout to create your order and pay immediately with your card, before taking delivery of your goodies. Or even better, download the FREE Grillshack app (iPhone or Android) and this will unlock a number of possibilities for you.
The app allows you to remotely check in and see if there is a queue for tables. So when you all of a sudden get a craving for a burger, you can check the app, remotely join the queue and then turn up when your table is free. Or order your food in the pub and pick it up after finishing your final pint! There is also a screen inside with live order updates for take away customers, which means, no more being left in the dark, wondering where your food has got to! When this goes live tomorrow I think it’s going to be a great tool for all parties involved. When I spoke to director Hannah Bass, she said that with this technology, Grillshack hoped to improve the dining experience by eliminating physical queues and handing control back to the customer.
Sadly the app wasn’t live last night so I gave the touchscreen system a run through. I found it to be ridiculously easy and incredibly quick and pain free. Even my mum (not one for technology) could blitz through a double cheese burger order with a side of fries and a coke! And what was even more impressive was the speed at which the food is created and placed in front of you. I was astonished at how quick my food arrived. I had been talking with Hannah for a mere 10 minutes after ordering and by the time I returned to my table, my friend was ready to tuck in and mine was just being plated up!
The presentation was clean and simple. The fries came separately, stacked on end next to the picture perfect burger, ready for consumption. Full marks! You could see it had been stacked with care. The only observation I had was that they probably missed a trick with the branding on the fries packaging but obviously this has no effect on the food, simply a business tip.
I split it down the middle to get a cross section view. Sadly there wasn’t an option for ‘Medium Rare’ on the touchscreen control, I don’t know if this is something you have to request at the bar in person though? Medium rare is definitely the way forward so it’s always worth enquiring before you hand over your plastic.
The burger, although cooked medium, was still surprisingly succulent. The covering of molten cheese was the perfect strength and consistency and the bacon produced a wonderful hint of smoke that was a worthy addition. The brioche bun was light and airy. Not too dry and it never faltered once, even after I added a healthy squirt of ketchup to the mayo, which is included as standard. You can’t go wrong with a dollop of the red stuff!
The revelation for me though lay in the french fries. They were cooked to perfection, with a satisfying bite and a light seasoning. Add in some of Grillshack’s smokey hot chipotle sauce (this stuff is divine) and you are on to an absolute winner!
It didn’t take us long to polish off the lot and when we looked up from our plates and wiped away any chipotle sauce that had gone astray, the place had started to pack out. Everywhere you looked people were discussing the menu, the Grillshack app, huddling around the touchscreen for a run through of the process and sinking their teeth into some great chow!
To finish we decided to opt for the Triple Choc & Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich, much like the one I created a couple months ago for the perfect treat in the summer sun. It was one of my favourite parts of the night. The cookies were rich and indulgent, sporting some huge chocolate chunks, with a chewy consistency that combined with the ice cream to form a delicious partnership. They got better with every bite, as your hands heated the cookie, making them softer and melting the ice cream inside. I was soon in a sticky mess but grinning from ear to ear, in a way only indulgent food experiences like this can produce.
I was really impressed with the evening overall. I found the process to be slick and efficient and the food to be of a great standard, especially when you consider the prices. I will be watching the Twitter feeds with great intrigue when they open for business today and the coming weeks. I imagine the new age ordering system may get some stick from those that are afraid of change. I, however, love the idea of not having to wait for a waiter to find you, and being granted the freedom to grab a table, hit up the app and personally get your food going in the kitchen pronto. It will be interesting to see how they combat the mighty Byron down the road when it comes to the burgers. I would say that for £4.95 the burger is without doubt an absolute bargain but to compete with the big Soho boys like Patty & Bun a few slight changes may need to be made in the future.
If you are thinking of checking out Grillshack tomorrow or anytime soon, be sure to take note of their Opening Offers too. Neighbours working in the Soho area get a free glass of wine/beer or the super indulgent Ice Cream Sandwich with proof of your employment. If you aren’t lucky enough to work in foodie central, do not fear, as you can get the same deal when you deliver the line “GRILLSHACK ON THE HOUSE BRO!”
Also if you are lucky enough, on your way out, you may get issued a coveted Grillshack coin, either for free booze or free pud when you next dine.
I look forward to visiting the Grillshack again soon and using mine!