Freakshakes: Face to face with one of London’s worst food trends.

 In London

This post originally appeared in the Guernsey Press, March 2018

Last month, I noted that with all of the fast food joints and wacky workout options available in London, it’s as easy to lose weight in the city as it is to put it all back on again.

It’s becoming a topic of increasing contention for me lately. I’ve got an issue with London’s ‘extreme food’ scene; from weird ways of serving dishes, to monstrously- sized desserts, to just the sheer extreme cafe-owners are going in an attempt to make the news by creating the most vulgar dishes you can imagine. I’m talking about the sort of food that’s designed to either be as seriously fattening as possible, or as difficult as possible to eat. Sometimes, the two factors can even be combined into a messier, heart-attack inducing format.

The Florentine restaurant for example, near Lambeth, became famous for offering their “Herculean” burger – designed to feed four people. This burger weighs 2.2 kilograms, of which 1kg is the beef patty alone. Then it’s covered by 6 mushrooms, 200g cheese, black truffle, truffle mayonnaise, plus a side of chips and sweet potato fries. Oh, and 20 slices of bacon.

I struggle to think of anything I want to eat less. Sure, the fillings sound nice, but even a regular-sized burger can sometimes be tricky enough to eat, let alone one that’s the size of an unabridged dictionary and costs £60.

As if the food isn’t extreme enough, sometimes it’s just the way it gets served that can be equally ludicrous. Take one look at the @WeWantPlates Twitter account for a laugh and to see what I’m talking about. If you get upset about steak arriving on a wooden board, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. These guys have seen soup served in a shoe. They’ve received bacon strips, hung with pegs, as if on a miniature washing line. In one restaurant, a patron asked for orange juice and was served a tall glass on a plate, a squeezer, and 2 halved oranges. Yes: they expected the patron to make the orange juice herself. I don’t know what we’re paying for any more.

But it’s the “freakshake” that’s most endemic of all of these problems in my view. Freakshakes combine the messiness, the ludicrous presentation and the outrageous calorie count into one regrettable and sickeningly sweet concoction. These monstrous desserts look less like a treat and more like a challenge to me.

A classic freakshake, for the uninitiated, is when you take one of those vintage jam-jar-mugs with handles (I’ve never seen them served in any other way), and your goal is essentially to pack it with AS MUCH SUGAR AS YOU CAN. Ice cream. Butterscotch. Fudge. Chocolate chips. Sprinkles. Bananas. Strawberries. Biscuits. Cookies. Meringue bits. Brownie bits. Sometimes even bacon. It’s all on the menu, and it all gets thrown in along with with a cupful of whole milk, blended a bit, then topped with spoonfuls of whipped cream and sauces. But why stop there? It’s not a freakshake until it’s topped with ANOTHER dessert, usually a full-sized doughnut, brownie, or slice of cake. By this point, you’ve now created a ‘drink’ that contains at least 1,500 calories have permission to slap a £10–15 price tag on it.

That’s it – there’s no artistry or tact required to it; it’s just a race to see who can go even more ridiculous with ingredients and induce their customers into a sugar- coma first. It seems all these cafes have a mission of trying to get us as messy, fat and uncomfortable as possible. And I’m done with it.

I can do that on my own.

Olly Browning
Olly is the Head of Marketing for Doordeck, former Art Director and occasional writer based in London.
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