I have been told by some folk I am a bit of a food snob, which I have always thought was something of a compliment! In all seriousness I simply appreciate good food, but it doesn't have to be a three hundred pound Michelin-starred experience, I can recognise the quality of a cup of tea and a slice of cake from the local tea room, or a full Scottish at the cafe across the road from the office. When it comes to burgers, an area we at SFR are quite familiar with, I like a good quality burger, decent toppings at a sensible price. We also love local businesses and try and steer clear of the larger chains. It will therefore come as no surprise when I say that McDonald's isn't somewhere I thought I'd ever review.
Make no mistake you don't become the world's largest restaurant chain by accident, but there are always preconceptions when it comes to the target market of the offering. The Hamburglar , Ronald McDonald, Happy Meals it's always been great for the kids, I still remember having a birthday party (back in 1980 something) at a McDonald's with seats arranged inside a wooden train. Time moves on and now I occasionally take my daughter to McDonald's and whilst I find her needs well met, I always struggle to find something I like.
Clearly other customers over the years have made the same comment and McDonald's have listened. Now, after four years of creation, refinement, focus groups and customer feedback they are now ready to unleash on us good people of Scotland, The Signature Collection.
“Well what is it and why should I care” I hear you shout.
Ok maybe shouting I'm being too optimistic in my reader interaction.
Perhaps just think it for me, maybe even whisper it out loud (if you're on your own obvs, if you're on a crowded train don't, people will think you're a bit odd)
Anyway this is all about McDonald's releasing not one, but three brand new burgers to their menu. Not temporarily or for a season, but forever. This isn't just a quarter pounder with different sauce, this is a whole new concept, so fundamentally different they've needed to install new kitchen equipment to cook it.
At the heart and soul of the new range is a 2cm thick burger made of British and Irish beef, look there's a picture of the meat, proper cuts of it and that's all that goes in, 100%! The Collection is built around this patty so it needs to be good and it is. The extra thickness now means there is a contrast of textures through the burger, the outside seared and darkened, the inside succulent with a bit of bounce, easily head and shoulders over a regular mass produced burger. Earlier I mentioned this was one of three new burgers in the range, so what's each one all about?
The first, and my favourite (for now) is the Classic. McDonald's have clearly understood that people like their burger the way it looks in the picture, ask Michael Douglas ( I'm not explaining it, you'll need to look it up) and that's why you have to wait a little longer for your burger from the Signature Collection, as it is made fresh for you when you order. The result is a burger that stands tall and proud in its classy looking matte black and gold box and paper wrapper. It's all very neatly ordered: bread, brioche of course; onion and lettuce that look like simply sliced red onion and lettuce. Next follows a slice of cheddar cheese of a quality that you would happily eat at home, rather than some waxy square of yellow something. Crossed over the top are two rashers of Beechwood smoked bacon and crowned by the burger. This is then smothered in a whole grain mustard mayo, which initially I was sceptical about, but it works well, tastes great and may well rival Big Mac sauce for popularity. The Classic is simple, with good quality ingredients just nestled on top of each other. It is a ‘Classic’ bacon cheeseburger.
The BBQ is the same as the Classic, but with two ingredient changes that change the direction of the burger completely. The mustard mayo is cast aside and replaced with a smoky, almost sweet BBQ sauce. There is then the addition of a crispy crunchy coleslaw which throws in a new texture dynamic and a dash of creaminess that contrasts with the barbecue sauce. Another good burger, that I am sure I will give another try to.
The Spicy was a tough one for me to like, aimed at a broad market, when spice and heat are such personal preferences this one is bound to be divisive. On opening the box you get that aroma and scent of the chilli which give you a hint of what's to come. This time only the bun, burger and lettuce stay the same and three sources of spiciness are added. The first, the Pepper Jack cheese takes the creamy butteriness of Monterey Jack cheese and punctuates it with chilli and peppers, providing a good balance of flavours. The Spicy salsa-esque relish wades in with some warm fruitiness, but the addition of a layer of sliced Jalapeño really steps it up a gear. But for me it was only up into second and therein lies the problem.
For some this would be a tonsil tingling inferno of a burger, my mother-in-law's head would possibly explode in some sort of cataclysmic brioche encased detonation, but don't give me ideas. For me and others that live life at the higher end of the Scoville Scale it all a bit, Meh. But and it's a big but, very soon, when the fully interactive menu ordering system comes to Scotland you could max (should that be Mac's?!!) out the burger with as much Jalapeño as you like, double up on the relish and throw on more cheese and then the Spicy can be as hot or mild as you desire.
I really respect the efforts McDonald's have gone to over creating this range and listening to customers feedback. They have created a grown-up range of burgers to satisfy the mature adults that also frequent their restaurants. What is important to remember is at around £4.69 for an individual burger or around £6.19 for a meal this isn't looking to enter gourmet burger territory, but it is most definitely an epicurean step-up for McDonald's. Keep your eyes open for the Signature Collection arriving at a restaurant near you soon and give them a try for yourself...
The Signature Collection has already arrived at Kilmarnock (Bellfield Interchange), Springburn- Glasgow and in Glasgow City Centre the Trongate and Sauchiehall Street restaurants. It is also available at the Silverburn restaurant where I was so marvelously hosted by Jim McLean and his fantastic team.
McDonald's invited me down and provided me complimentary burgers to try, but as always the opinions in the review are very much mine, as you can probably tell.