I’m always excited when a new eatery opens up in my neighbourhood, and after walking past Meat & Shake in Watford a few times and peering at the awesome-looking menu, I just had to try it.
It’s actually a small chain, with branches in Ealing and Tooting too. Watford’s the newest branch, but all three share a menu and the same USP which they actually don’t shout about – that they’re Halal, and don’t serve alcohol. I only learned this recently when I found this article on the Evening Standard, but the dry menu does explain why the restaurant was empty at 8.30 on a Saturday night. Oh, Watford.
It’s a lovely building – three or four floors and super modern and industrial, like an abandoned warehouse that’s been taken over by the cool kids, with graffiti on the walls and exposed lightbulbs. It’s huge – another reason, perhaps, that it seemed empty – but this also means the service suffers. I was in a fairly large group, so we were put on the top floor and had to wait ages for our food and much of it was on the cold side, probably because they had to carry it up the huge flight of stairs (there’s apparently no dumbwaiter). And, given that the other floors were so empty, I’m not sure why they bothered putting us so high!
Onto the food, though. I ordered a large salted caramel milkshake, the Rib n Cheese burger and shared sides of fries, pit beans and creamed corn with Matt, who ordered the Von Longhorn burger. The milkshake was amazing - a really distinctive tang of salt, which caramel is often missing. I couldn't finish it though - when they say large, they mean large.
The Rib n Cheese burger has aioli, pulled beef rib, BBQ sauce and cheese. It was nice - but just nice. I couldn't really taste the aioli or the cheese, so it pretty much tasted like a generic pulled pork sandwich (I know it was beef, but the taste was very similar). It also was decidedly lukewarm - that's the service I mentioned.
Matt's Von Longhorn burger looked impressive, and contained aioli, cheese, onions, turkey bacon and Stanton sauce and again, it tasted nice. But it wasn't a wow. Perhaps we've just been spoiled by burger places lately, but it didn't meet my high expectations.
Our sides were OK, too - but the pit beans were pretty heavy on the BBQ sauce, and couldn't hold a candle to Craft & Cleaver's - and the creamed corn was on the sickly side. Our friends tried the bone marrow shafts, which were apparently amazing (although they look a bit scary), and the Pit Bull Dog (which was tasty, but cold).
I'm disappointed by how disappointing this review is, because I wanted it to be good - and doesn't the food LOOK so good? But the service really let it down, and it was underwhelming. Not TERRIBLE, but it could be so much better. We visited back in November when they haven't been open long, so it may have just been teething problems with the service. I'm all for independent restaurants doing well, and I'd much rather Meat & Shake succeeded than the chains that it's surrounded by.
Meat & Shake is at 127 High St, Watford WD17 2TQ. I was not compensated for this honest review.