WHEN do you stop being a kid? I don’t mean reaching the legal voting age. When do you stop doing cartwheels, or climbing trees and start becoming conscious of how you look in swimwear? At what point did I stop seeing the famous golden arches as a Siren call for scran and start viewing it like Sauron’s eye, summoning tracksuit-wearing Orcs to McMordor?
After much research, using phrases like ‘driving the flavour profiles’ and ‘quantifiable research’, they narrowed it down to three
Before I grew up to be a food snob I used to love McDonald’s. I was a really fussy eater, so my parents would take me there first to stop me moaning while they enjoyed eating in a proper restaurant later on. The chain was in its relative infancy and the big yellow M was a rarer sight than it is now. It was new and exciting and from America, a fabulous place where people danced on the bonnet of cars. It didn’t cross my mind to get involved in heavy debates about obesity epidemics, the rise of generic towns or the carbon-emitting effects of mass cattle farming. I simply wanted a cheeseburger in a box.
McDonald’s have obviously been affected by the recent demand for ‘gourmet’ or ‘dirty’ burgers, but they haven’t simply rushed at a McResponse. The suits have called in focus groups and food developers, they have consulted a specially commissioned Chef’s council and have researched every single component to the Nth degree. They know we want higher quality ingredients, we want bigger burgers and we want everything to be freshly prepared to order. They are trying to win back people like me and, if you’re reading this, I assume they want you as well.
The result is The Signature Collection which, apart from three venues in Germany, is exclusive to the UK. It is the first permanent burger collection to earn a place on their menu in 30 years. Following a successful initial pilot launched in November 2015 across 30 South East restaurants, as well as the Ashton branch, it will now be available in 27 further restaurants across the North West. This corresponds with the recent digital transformation of McDonald’s ‘Experience of the Future’ restaurants with interactive table-top games, Smartphone charging points and superfast broadband.
‘The Signature Collection’ is a range of three thicker premium burgers, made from 100% British and Irish beef, in a brioche-style bun, served in stylish black and gold packaging. The patties are 20mm thick, so they have had to install a new type of ‘clam shell’ grill to apply heat to both the top and the bottom, retaining the moisture and searing the burger on both sides to produce a caramelised crust.
After much research, using phrases like ‘driving the flavour profiles’ and ‘quantifiable research’, basically trying to find out what the ultimate gourmet burger flavour of choice would be for most customers, they eventually narrowed it down to:
THE CLASSIC – with Beechwood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, wholegrain mustard mayo, ketchup, Batavia lettuce.
THE BBQ – Smoky BBQ sauce, coleslaw, Batavia lettuce, Beechwood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and red onion.
THE SPICY – Jalapeño slices, Pepper Jack cheese, Batavia lettuce, spicy relish and mayo.
Part of the exercise was for me to sit down and work my way through each of these burgers while being watched by an eager crowd of head office suits and PR women. Modesty prevented me from wolfing down the lot, rather than taking a couple of healthy bites of each, but I could have.
Given the choice, I would have ordered The Classic but, although it was good, I ended up being more satisfied by the other two. The BBQ has a good combination of textures and flavours, but its components tend to slide off in different directions making it messy to eat.
The winner by a narrow margin was The Spicy which held together well and had a perfect balance of every component; temperature, texture, heat and flavour. I brought one back for my husband who has a secret McDonald’s habit (I keep finding tell-tale wrappers in his car) who declared it ‘not bad at all.’
The burgers are priced at £4.69 for a sandwich and £6.19 for a meal, marking it at a favourable price point in comparison with other gourmet burgers.
When I got home I was so giddy my husband thought I’d been drinking. Obviously the fact that I got to sample all three McDonald’s Signature Collection burgers without judgement appealed to my inner greedy child but, I’m frankly amazed to conclude that, once in a while, it appears I might be ‘Lovin it’ after all.