Smashburger UK Review – Classic Smash™, Truffle Mushroom Swiss & Stilton Stack
What they say:
At Smashburger, we believe… scratch that, WE KNOW that smashing is better. Our handcrafted burgers are smashed, seared and seasoned to order, using fresh, never-frozen, 100% British Beef.
Classic Smash™ (Cheeseburger) – American cheese with Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles & onion on a Smash bun.
Truffle Mushroom Swiss – Sautéed chestnut mushrooms with truffle mayo & aged Swiss on a Smash bun.
Stilton Stack – Chutney with rocket, haystack onions, applewood smoked bacon & stilton cheese on a Smash bun.
Price (Reg /Lrg): £5.50/£7.25 for the Classic Smash, £6.25/£7.75 for the Truffle Mushroom Swiss and £6.75/£8.25 for the Stilton Stack.
Smashburger has arrived in the UK!!
Opened in 2007 in the USA, Smashburger is the latest American fast casual restaurant to take a bite out of the £2.8 billion UK burger market. The first lucky location to get a Smashburger is in The Kingston Centre, Milton Keynes, with more planned for Brighton, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bath and Wednesbury. The aim is to open 35 locations in the next few years.
What makes Smashburger different to any other burger joint I hear you ask? Well they tell us that:
The secret’s in the “smash” – a unique method of cooking whereby 100% British Beef is hand-formed into a meatball and is smashed onto a hot buttered grill, searing in all the juices and flavour, producing a burger unlike any other. Combine this unique cooking method with the best of British ingredients from UK suppliers makes for a delicious menu item not found at your average burger joint.
Their mission is “to bring a fresh approach to burgers” and “making burgers you seek out” so bearing in mind we made the 150-mile round trip (yes you read that right – 150 miles!!) we’ve certainly travelled a vast distance to seek out the latest US burger import! But was it worth the journey, the wait and hype…? We’ll find out soon…
There has certainly been hype surrounding the launch of Smashburger in the UK. To celebrate opening its first restaurant, they gave away 500 free burgers to their social media fans (for the first five days of opening they handed out 100 free burgers each day). We were unable to get over to Milton Keynes for the event and this weekend was the first opportunity we could visit.
Long term readers of BURGER LAD® will remember our very own Admiral Burgerbar’s US burger tour which incorporated Smashburger (his review here) but we were eager to test-drive this latest US chain to expand over the pond.
I like the look of the menu too. You’ve got a selection of beef and chicken burgers like the ultra-tempting Buffalo & Blue Cheese featuring Frank’s® RedHot® Buffalo Sauce with blue cheese crumbles or the Spicy Jalapeño Baja with fresh jalapeños, guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese and chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun. Alongside the “regular” menu you’ve got the platform to create-your-own burger too, offering a whole host of customisation options. Here at Smashburger, beef patties are available in two sizes – regular (4.5oz) or large (6.4oz).
Choose a beef option, crispy or grilled chicken burger or a Portobello cap mushroom, a Smash, spicy chipotle or Multi-grain bun and then create your dream build from an exhaustive list of toppings, sauces, cheeses and premium add-ons.
Inside it looks slick and you can tell straight away it’s heavily American-inspired. The décor very much screams “premium burger joint” with a reliance on the brand’s primary colours of white, red and black. It’s very stylish here and the two Coke Freestyle machines look right at home sat adjacent to the counter.
Before we get to the burgers we were here to review, we had a chance to catch-up with Niels Ladefoged, one of the partners of the company behind the Smashburger UK venture, who also have a number of other brands on their portfolio.
Niels was very kind to meet and greet us today and looked after us with any questions we had. Part of the reason Smashburger came to the UK revolved around one of the other partners who had family in Denver and happened to try out one of their US restaurants. He was so impressed with the “burger better” that for six months he kept on at his partners to go and sample it, saying that they had to try this burger chain that smash the patties. In the end, they did and here we are.
I asked Niels why out of the whole of the UK they chose Milton Keynes as the first location to open. He told me that London was an obvious choice but they wanted to do something different and that MK is well known to them so was a good fit, especially with the premises they are now in coming available at the right time. What Smashburger want to do in the UK is make it as accessible to as many people as possible and try and avoid that exclusivity by offering competitive prices in the right sites. And from what I witnessed today, Smashburger could be making big waves in the next 12-18 months and beyond.
Of course, all of this is no good if the food is not up to standard, so without any further delay let’s get to the first burger we sampled today, the Classic Smash™ Cheeseburger.
Firstly, the service – my goodness this was quick and it was quite busy inside too! It’s the standard place your order at the counter, return to table with a placard/order number and one of the staff bring your food to you. This was quick! Silly quick even! I was astounded on how quick they brought us our burgers. As we were sampling four burgers (Miss Milkshake did a build your own not reviewed here) we opted for the “regular” sized 4.5oz patties.
And we have to talk about the beef patties first. I’m actually quite glad we opted for the smaller sized burgers so I could enjoy all three without feeling bloated. They’re an exceptionally good price at £5.50 and provide some serious competition to other burger chains whose flagship burgers are creeping closer to this pricing point.
The beef is good – just a slight dash of pink on the inside and really very juicy and full of flavour. You get a natural, fresh taste of beef as opposed to a synthetic flavouring and I have no qualms about recommending them to anyone. They are really bloody good! Trust me!
Fresh beef mince is used on the premises which is rolled into a meatball and added to the grill and then smashed down using a griddle-type pressing machine/mechanism. This gives the patty a truly lovely caramelised surface which locks in the juiciness and flavour. Taste and texture-wise, for the price and speed of service I don’t think you can get much better.
The seasoning is spot on. And I mean spot on. Everybody reading this has probably had a McDonald’s burger in their lifetime. And when you strip away the sauce, the salad etc. that patty has a strong, almost addictive seasoning added to it. This is similar, but way better. I’m not saying that in a derogatory manner to McDonald’s, nor do I want you to think I am associating Smashburger with the Golden Arches. It’s just got “something” in that seasoning mixed with the quality, smashed beef patty which as Miss Milkshake put it, gives you an instant classic taste of America. And it’s so, so good.
The Classic Smash™ was served to me with the lid off so you can see all the components on your build along with that slightly knobbly and irregular shaped smashed patty. With this being the signature burger of the Smashburger menu it HAD to be my first choice. And considering I don’t like ketchup or mustard I really did find this to be a good burger. I can see why it is currently the most popular on the menu.
You get a strong red onion taste which is prevalent throughout. This is complimented by the sharpness of the mustard and sweetness of the ketchup. It’s a tried and tested combination of flavours with an ensemble of fresh salad, which is crunchy and crispy and when I hit the pickles I was in burger heaven. Very good, although I removed the tomato from this (never will be a fan) and I did struggle to pick out the Smash sauce which was the only negative thing I can say about this burger. I’ll talk about the Smash bun in our next mini-review of the Truffle Mushroom Swiss.
Now when I saw the finalised menu my eyes immediately darted to the Truffle Mushroom Swiss. What is not to like on this!?
Truffle mayo – this SCREAMS decadent, premium, luxury and that’s exactly what it is. Beautiful. Very good, very rich and slightly creamy but definitely a more grown-up and refined taste compared to the Classic Smash™.
This one was oddly the only burger of the four that came with the crown of the Smash bun on top – so I left wondering which is the correct way for them to be presented – crown bun on or off? A minor confusion… which, in the grand scheme of things doesn’t present much relevance.
This is an exquisite burger nonetheless and haters of mushroom should look away now. The Sautéed chestnut mushrooms really make this build and I would have another instantly as I type this review up. They work incredibly well with the truffle mayo and that grand aged Swiss to deliver an exceptional version of another classic combination of ingredients. It’s that truffle mayo though which really elevates it above others I’ve sampled in the past. The mushrooms too are not slimy, or for that matter too “beefy” either – just sliced really nicely and offsetting against that nutty Swiss cheese. For me, being able to walk into an American fast casual and get a mushroom-topped burger at a shade over £6 is pretty bloody good. And that’s exactly what this is.
The Smash bun is ultra-fresh with a nice springy feel to it (which was the case on all the burgers sampled today) and the patty as I described above was exceptionally tasty. The toppings didn’t take anything away from the beef, instead complementing them in this rich, luxurious menu offering.
And finally, we bring you the Stilton Stack.
This swanky build is unique to the UK Smashburger menu. While American menus frequently offer blue cheese, particularly in the form of dressings and the like, these are typically made with Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Smashburger makes the most of their newfound UK heritage, and lovingly crumbles Stilton (a staple on any decent British cheeseboard) onto the smashed beef patty, along with rocket, Applewood smoked bacon, haystack onions and onion chutney.
The creamy-yet-crumbly texture of the Stilton works in perfect harmony with that of the patty, and both are complimented perfectly by the tang of the chutney and the lively, peppery rocket. It tasted like a lot of thought had gone into this build, and even Miss Milkshake said it was a solid favourite of hers.
With more decadent items like this on their menu they really help to bridge the divide between your average fast-food joint and other gourmet burger restaurants which we discuss more below.
We haven’t reviewed it, but MM also tried the Smashburger create your own option. Recently, we’ve seen flavour-infused buns such as the Burger King Halloween or Angriest Whopper but having had some of the spicy chipotle bun on her creation this is definitely recommended! This really packed a punch in terms of a very distinct flavour and it was pretty spicy. Quite possibly one of the best buns I’ve had to date, so if you happen to be in Milton Keynes and heading to Smashburger, I would say to make this a priority.
How would I summarise Smashburger?
It’s like a premium burger in terms of quality but fast food in terms of price and speed of service. It’s bridging the gap between traditional High Street brands and those with a more premium price at other fast casuals – it fits nicely between the two. Personally, I hope to see a location nearer to BLHQ sooner rather than later!
I believe Smashburger can do something for the UK market akin to what McDonald’s did in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It sort of made me feel like that kid again back in 1984, aged five, trying a McD’s Cheeseburger for the very first time and having that “wow – this is something new, exciting and American” feeling. Like this is what a cheeseburger in the USA tastes like.
I drove away feeling very happy with the food we’d tried today. We had both their grilled or crispy whole chicken breast which was succulent and really very tasty. We were also lucky enough to try their Smashfries® which are tossed in Italian olive oil, rosemary & garlic alongside their Sweet Potato Fries. And I’m never normally a fan of Sweet Potato Fries, but I assure you these are excellent and beautifully seasoned – certainly changing my opinion! Alongside these, we also sampled the Veggie Frites which are flash fried Fresh green beans & carrot strips – a decent alternative to the standard potato side option. And last but not least, we ate some of the Haystack Onions. And if you go to Smashburger and don’t order these you are missing a trick as they are one of the best sides I’ve had, with them made freshly on the premises.
What I also noticed as we made the long journey back to Cheltenham from MK was that I didn’t suffer from that post-fast food fatigue that is somewhat common after eating this many burgers. And I put that down to the quality of the beef and other ingredients. And it is good quality at an exceptional price with the quickest service for freshly ordered burgers I’ve encountered.
The staff are very commendable and attentive to every customer in the restaurant. They all seemed happy to be there with a smile on their face and very eager to offer the diner a friendly and welcoming service and experience. Hat tip to all of you! And thank you to Niels for being such a gentleman and giving us his time on a very sunny Sunday afternoon – we appreciate it very much!
Despite not having to pay for any of our food for our Smashburger UK review, this holds no influence over our unbiased, impartial analysis. Had I paid for one burger or been given ten for free I would very much be saying the exact same thing.
Smashburger has launched with a fanfare in the UK and if you do get the chance to make it to Milton Keynes I suggest you check it out! The menu is great, varied and with a create your own platform and Coke Freestyle you won’t get bored trying out the countless combinations on offer.
The fresh, good quality smashed meat is the true talking point and the seasoning they use on the patties give you that true taste of America – very tasty, very more-ish. And with an extensive, but uncluttered menu they certainly cater to a wide range of tastes. It’s a welcoming destination whether you have children, are a couple or just a group of friends looking to grab a quick and decent burger. One things for certain, the burger game in this country has been taken up a notch.
Smashburger has arrived in the UK – keep an eye out for one opening near you soon!