Review of McDonald’s Signature Collection – The Classic, The BBQ and The Spicy
What they say:
Various (see below).
Price: £4.89 each.
Calories: 698 kcal (Classic), 782 (BBQ), 635 (Spicy).
Foreword by Burger Lad®:
We apologise to all our loyal fans for not getting this review to you sooner. As the Signature Collection was only released in a modest number of test locations we made the executive decision to await nationwide release before bringing you our expert burger analysis.
However, with reports of McDonald’s Ashton Moss rolling out the new range, our Principal Burger Critic™ Admiral Burgerbar stepped up to the plate and embarked on a mission to bring you the review you deserve. It seems our usual invitation has been ‘lost in the post’, which I’m sure is in no way related to Miss Milkshake posting selfies in her ‘I heart Burger King’ T shirt.
When I first read Burger Lad’s breaking news about the new range of “gourmet” burgers from McDonald’s, I was pretty excited. I do like a proper gourmet burger, even if the term is ill-defined and often used with considerable poetic licence. After all, McDonald’s is pretty ubiquitous and it should be very easy to find, right?
Wrong. For some inexplicable reason, they decided to release this new range at 28 restaurants only. That sort of thing I suppose is fair enough if it’s a trial arrangement, although that doesn’t seem entirely clear from the marketing waffle. What is rather less acceptable is that the 28 restaurants in question are all marked on the map as being in a slightly extended version of the south east of England.
In a tweet, McDonald’s even stated they are available at 28 selected restaurants across the UK, which clearly isn’t the case. There are none in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the South West or the north of England.
Anyway, it gets even more baffling, as it became apparent that a newly-opened restaurant on the fringes of Manchester had the range too, although it isn’t marked on McDonald’s location map. It makes me wonder how many more locations have them – tweet Burger Lad® if you happen to see them.
|Brand new branch, brand new range…|
I had to travel a considerable way to this place. Normally, Burger Lad® himself would be showcasing the new offerings from McDonald’s on day one, but perhaps this time they have some new work experience people in marketing who haven’t worked everything out yet.
So, anyway, you’ll see the range set out in Burger Lad’s initial article (see below). On the face of it, it’s three new burgers, but getting into the nuts and bolts, the main difference from the regular menu is that the patty is thicker, and they are served in a brioche bun.
The Classic, the BBQ and the Spicy are the names of these three. The Classic is essentially a bacon cheeseburger, while the BBQ is much the same, but with the mayo swapped for BBQ sauce, and the addition of coleslaw. The final one, the Spicy, has no bacon, but with jalapeño slices and a spicy relish to help it live up to its name.
|Premium presentation all the way…|
The beef is described as being “100% British and Irish beef” which is the same as their regular patty, but thicker. In fact, I don’t really understand how it can be 100% British AND Irish beef. It has to be one or the other. In which case it’d be 100% British OR Irish. Or each patty contains a mix, and that’d make it 50% British and 50% Irish, or whatever the proportion.
All three come with red onions, which I must admit, I do like.
This is the entry-level, the least adventurous of the range. Like I said, it’s a bacon cheeseburger , where the bacon is beechwood smoked, and the cheese is cheddar, rather than the usual slices. There’s also mayo, which will please and horrify people in equal measure, but it is interesting in that it’s a mustard mayo which should add a distinct taste.
In fact, the tart red onions and the mustard really ought to elevate this above a regular bacon cheeseburger at McDonald’s.
Let’s find out just how it turned out.
|Butcher’s stripes say “gourmet” don’t they…!?|
Well, the first thing that strikes you is the presentation. The box for these is a black with premium branding all round. Even before opening it, this does feel like a cut above McDonald’s standard offerings. The premium theme continues inside, with a wrap that doesn’t completely enclose the bun, leaving some of it on show.
And on show first of all is that brioche bun. Now ok, brioche is pretty much de rigueur in gourmet burgers these days and it does feel like McDonald’s is rather late to that party, but there’s a reason it is a popular choice, well a few reasons actually. It looks good, it (usually) tastes good and it (usually) doesn’t crumble.
|Toppings are underneath…|
Within the bun, an abundance of toppings, although I do use the word “toppings” in the loosest sense. In accordance with the marketing pictures, this build includes most of the toppings actually underneath the patty, with only the mayo on top. It’s a strange choice which must have some reasoning, but I can’t fathom it.
The cheese isn’t melted. A great shame, as it is cheddar on this one, but its square shape and cold un-melted form looks rather unloved.
Anyway, that’s the aesthetics, so let’s investigate the taste. Biting in, there’s definitely a different experience in the taste and the texture of the bun. Now, I’m no stranger to brioche at other burger joints, but to people more familiar with McDonald’s than anywhere else, this is going to seem miles better.
|The Classic – spoiled by the mayo…|
After the initial pleasantries of the bun, I’m afraid a rather significant downside became apparent and that was the mustard mayo. My anticipation of this was sadly unwarranted as it managed to stomp all over the other ingredients. I didn’t even taste the red onion or the bacon, although I could definitely see them in there.
That was a real shame. Yes, I know I could ask for it without the mayo and I’d certainly recommend you do that (although beware that might make it rather dry), but I’m not usually against having mayo in my burger.
|Thick beef and lots of lettuce…|
The beef is noticeably thicker than the usual McDonald’s patty. The manager explained to me that it’s cooked for 6 minutes (or was it 4) rather than the usual 112 seconds and you can just imagine what that’s going to do to peak time queuing if sales of these burgers are high, and staffing isn’t very carefully managed. Other than the size though, the taste (when I got a bit without the mayo) was the same standard McDonald’s beef taste.
This one has the same cheese and the same bacon as the Classic. It’s the obvious choice for the second one – we’ve certainly had plenty of BBQ sauce usage at McDonald’s over the years, as I said, it swaps the mayo for a BBQ sauce, and adds coleslaw. But although the changes from the Classic are few, they are significant and should provide a completely different experience.
|Second – The BBQ…|
I didn’t notice it in the Classic (but that’s maybe because I could only taste the mayo) but the bacon here seemed to be different to the usual thin bacon used in so many of McDonald’s menu items. Thicker certainly, but of the bits sticking out the side, most of it was fat I’m sorry to say.
That aside, when I bit into this, it was miles better than the first one. A lovely sweet, slightly smokey BBQ sauce had replaced that awful mayo. Again, the sauce was on top, with everything else underneath.
|Shiny, sweet and subtle tastes here…|
This sauce was really tasty – to be honest I’m really not sure if it’s the same stuff we’ve seen on other BBQ items, but a degree of doubling up on ingredients would be fair enough. Far more subtle and tastier than the mayo, I was enjoying this one far more than the Classic.
|Good BBQ sauce but the bacon is a bit fatty here…|
The other variation was the coleslaw. Yes, I’m well aware that it isn’t everybody’s favourite burger topping but I do like it, especially here. It gave a wonderfully cool, creamy counterbalance to the sweet tones of the sauce, and I thought the sum of the parts was really good.
If the bacon had been a bit leaner, this would have been better, but that notwithstanding, I must say a pretty solid effort from McDonald’s – I’d definitely have this one again.
|Cheese could be melted too…|
For the third option, McDonald’s was realistically going to do something with chicken, or something with heat, and they’ve plumped for the latter. Now, I fully expect this to be noticeably, but not stupidly spicy. McDonald’s doesn’t go bonkers with their spicy options, but I tend to find them about right, while others might find them too mild.
|The Spicy won’t blow the roof of your mouth off…|
This cranks up the heat in three ways – firstly the cheddar of the other two is replaced by pepperjack cheese; secondly there are jalapeño slices amongst the toppings; and thirdly there’s some sort of spicy relish. That’s quite a lot to be going on with, and does on the face of it, sound like a more daring offering from McDonald’s.
The Spicy also doesn’t have the smoked bacon of the other two.
Opening up the signature black box for a third time, the first thing that grabbed me was the distinctive speckling of the pepperjack cheese. Again, not melted even slightly, but in terms of imagery, this was the best of the three.
|Pepperjack cheese – always looks great…|
There is plenty of relish, again on the top, and plenty of jalapeños away down at the bottom. This burger is in a kind of spice envelope there, and all the other ingredients including the beef patty were held within.
Fans of food-challenge-type heat might be disappointed with this, but let’s be realistic. McDonald’s isn’t going to release a Naga Ghost Fires of Hell special so we shouldn’t expect one. The spice is noticeable, but definitely on the milder end of the Scoville scale, hardly surprising.
|“Dat relish tho” – as the youths might say…|
The relish is also ever-so-slightly sweet, and was highly enjoyable. I’m certainly glad I had this one last though.
Perhaps the best of the three, although it’s a very tough call between the Spicy and the BBQ. I wouldn’t have the Classic again, but either of the other two would do very nicely. I’m just surprised there isn’t a chicken offering in this new range, as there is nearly always a chicken burger running alongside their promotions.
|No holding back the jalapeños either…|
Before I summarise the range, a quick word on the branch. A brand new building at Ashton Moss in east Manchester – only open a fortnight. Spotlessly clean, with two cleaners seemingly on permanent sweeping and mop duties. Immaculate and polite staff and several managers on duty (whether all this will dampen down in due course I don’t know). Most impressive was that they made a point of checking that everyone was aware of the minute’s silence to be held (to commemorate the tragedy in Paris). The staff all lined up, switched off the music, and stopped working for a minute. It was poignant, respectful and right, and I sincerely hope all their other branches did the same. If all branches could be like this one, McDonald’s would be seen as a more premium brand, perhaps to match their new premium range.
In summary, this is very much a welcome addition to McDonald’s line-up and I would love to see them make it onto menus permanently. Burger Lad® did pitch the idea of a good mid-range burger (i.e. slotting between cheap fast food and expensive premium burgers) quite some time ago and it looks like they listened. The question is whether they are good and interesting enough. They are certainly priced well for what they are, but I just wonder if McDonald’s is a bit late to recognise this segment – after all if I consider a good mid-range burger, I immediately think of the infinitely customiseable and increasingly widespread Five Guys.
Is this McDonald’s being genuinely innovative, or is it a reaction to the growing competition who may have stolen a march? Time, and sales figures will tell, but in the meantime on the basis of my enjoyment today, I think they’ve done a pretty good job.
*** The original breaking news below ***
McDonald’s launch new ‘The Signature Collection’…
McDonald’s UK have launched The Signature Collection as part of a pilot across 28 restaurants. The new collection features a thicker 100% beef patty with carefully selected ingredients, all in a brioche-style bun and crafted when the customer places the order.
|New premium burgers at McDonald’s…|
The Classic -100% British and Irish beef, Beechwood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, wholegrain mustard mayo, ketchup, Batavia lettuce and red onion, all in a Brioche style bun.
The Spicy – 100% British and Irish Beef, Jalapeño slices, Pepper Jack cheese, Batavia lettuce, Mayo and a spicy relish, all in a Brioche style bun.
The BBQ – 100% British and Irish Beef, BBQ sauce, coleslaw, red onion, Batavia lettuce, Beechwood smoked bacon and cheddar cheese, all in a Brioche style bun.
All three burgers should be available in McDonald’s restaurants across the UK in 2016 and are in-line with ranges such as The Signature range in Switzerland and the more recently released Maestro burger in some European countries.
Burger Lad® pitched the idea of a mid-range burger to compete with the likes of Five Guys at the 2014 My Burger Final.
Below are the locations the new Signature Collection is available:
|McDonald’s Signature Collection Locations…|
Here are more promotional pictures of the new Signature Collection line-up: