Smoking Bandit, Meat & Shake - Watford, UK

The UK has seen an influx of American barbecue and diner restaurants in the past few years. As more and more restaurants continue to open in what is quickly becoming a saturated market, it grows increasingly difficult to stand out. Meat & Shake offers its niche in the form of being high-quality halal meat in an alcohol-free environment.

Stylistically, Meat & Shake is pleasant, though perhaps feels like it is trying too hard to take on that American southern-state inspiration. Everything is wooden and there are more lights here than the Blackpool Illuminations. Nevertheless, the decor works and whilst it perhaps lacks the individual identity that places like Five Guys boast so well, I was a happy man ready for a good burger.

The menu was vast with a huge plethora of mains and a slightly concerning eleven burgers. Although a leap to assume this could jeopardise burger quality, my thought-train automatically jumps to this notion; classic jack of all trades, but master of none?

I ordered the 'Smoking Bandit' under the reluctant suggestion of the waitress, who appeared to have taken 'indifference' as a life-choice. The menu stated each patty was dry-aged for 36 or more days (good to know we have avoided those distasteful 35 day aged patties) and all cows are English and grass-fed.  The burger itself contained smokey chipotle mayo, smokey cheddar, smokey (assuming you are getting the message here?) turkey bacon, paired with tomato, lettuce and sauteed onions in a seedless bun.

When the burger arrived, it was encased in a misty glass dome; an intriguing novelty I had not witnessed before in a burger joint. When removing the dome, smoke erupted to reveal what truly was the 'Smoking Bandit'. Nice touch, but I am not here to judge a glass dome...

The burger certainly looked enticing, with a strong meat to bun to salad ratio. After a first bite, however, I was immediately disappointed in the colour of the patty. Cooked well done, as opposed to what I believe the menu had stated as 'medium', I knew it was only downhill from here. The taste of the patty was a little bland, lacking enough decisive seasoning to drive a real flavour. Redeeming itself slightly, the meat did remain juicy throughout, even if it was slightly overcooked.

In terms of toppings, the bacon was a nice touch. Although I am not a huge turkey bacon fan, the burger welcomed this twist in flavour. Paired with this was the chipotle mayo, which frankly the burger lacked enough of; a tasty and balanced sauce, with a little heat to it. The cheese was also sparse, to the point I had actually forgotten it was on there until I had finished the burger.

The highlight of the meal, aside from the awesome glass dome, were the fries. I opted for the truffle fries sharer which were topped with 'truffle glaze' and stilton mayonnaise. The flavour worked well with the only downfall being the odd soggy fry here and there.

Meat & Shake delivers an intriguing dining experience, although I cannot help but feel the burgers underdeliver. Perhaps the rest of the menu excels as a result, but ultimately I received a relatively bland burger with a lack of focused taste. The chipotle mayo sauce was the best element of the burger, but even that was lacking and certainly could not save it. That dome though...

Patty Master Musings:

  • Tap water cost me 5p. What the hell is that all about?
  • Serving me a 330ml Coca Cola in a bottle and charging me £2.50 is a slap in the face too. Draft coke all the way - behave yourselves.
  • My fiancee ordered a burger called the 'Johnny' which we chuckled at. It was also underwhelming for similar reasons.
  • When quizzing the waitress on what the best burger was, she reacted like I had asked her to explain string theory. Fun.
  • That dome though.

  • Did I Dip It? Surprisingly not. I was very close to though... Very close. My fiancee did with her burger.

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