Monday, July 30, 2012

Flat Iron, 27th July

Flat Iron is a new pop-up restaurant above the absolutely lovely Owl and the Pussycat pub. Ever since I had heard about it on Twitter, I had been dying to go. It is only in residence for six weeks (but this could be extended if it proves popular) and I was pleased to be able to go in the first two weeks and feel like I was slightly ahead of the pack.

It’s another place specialising in only one thing, and another place that doesn’t take reservations. We decided to go on Friday, when hopefully everyone would be elsewhere getting ready to watch the Opening Ceremony, and we went straight from work to be doubly sure we would avoid queuing for ages. We were, in fact, the very first two people in there and we didn’t have to queue at all! An excellent start. I don’t know if we were just lucky, or if it is always so easy so early in the night. Quite a few people had trickled in by half an hour later, but it wasn’t packed to the rafters, and, while we decided to leave after we’d eaten and finished our drinks, we could easily have stayed for another one or two drinks without feeling like we we were taking up valuable space.

So what is Flat Iron’s handle? Well, it’s aim is to make steak affordable for the masses, and they have done this by serving one type of steak – the Flat Iron – which rarely gets used and is thus cheaper. After the first night of opening, the next day I waited with baited breath for the reviews – but almost more importantly – the prices. I wanted to know what they considered ‘affordable’ considering steaks in the good places (Hawksmoor for example) can go for around £30, sometimes more depending on the cut. Good reviews were flooding in but no one was mentioning the price. Why? I was suspicious. Someone reviewed it on their blog, again without mentioning the price, so I asked. I could scarcely believe her when she said that steak and a salad was £10. That was unbelievably good value. And it doesn’t stop there. Sides come in at a mere £2.50, and cocktails are also very reasonably priced at between £5.50 and £7 (most places start at £7.00).

The restaurant space is also delightful. It has a bit of a rustic, slightly Wild West feel to it. As we went in fresh horseradish was being pounded in a pestle and mortar. There’s a lot of dark wood. The place feels relaxed and comfortable. But it is clear that great attention to detail has been given – from the mini-cleavers that take the place of steak knives, to the little jars of ketchup and mustard, to the way your bill is presented at the end of the meal – on small but heavy letter presses. This sort of thing might not be strictly necessary but for me added to the enjoyment of the experience.

Flat Iron asks, please don't steal the cleavers!
But what of the food? Well, I enjoyed it. The chips were tasty, though not mindblowing, and we were also persuaded by our very lovely and knowledgeable waitress to split a side of roasted aubergine (at these prices, why on earth not?) which was absolutely delicious. This may be verging on blasphemy to say so, especially coming from a meat lover such as myself, but I think it might have been my favourite thing of the night!  Seriously, seriously good. I wish I’d had a whole one to myself. For vegetarians, this is what you get as a main dish so you shouldn’t feel at all short-shrifted. 

The steak itself is also good, I think. Stephen wasn’t too enamoured with it. It has a ... how shall I say this? ... distinct... smell to it which is not overly pleasant, and Stephen thought it leaked into the taste, which he didn’t like. To be honest, for me it wasn’t exactly STEAK. I think people who go out for a STEAK will know what I mean. It’s not a thick, juicy porterhouse, with chewy, bitter char on the outside giving way to melt in the mouth meat in the middle. The steak at Flat Iron is altogether more delicate, laid out on the board almost like a charcuterie delicacy. I liked the taste – it did taste different to other beef, a little bit gamey. And I thought it was cooked beautifully (medium rare as standard though they will cook it to your liking if you request otherwise). But I couldn’t help but feel that if I was in the mood to go out for a STEAK, this wouldn’t have satisfied and I would still probably head to Buen Ayre, or Hawksmoor and pay the extra. I want to feel like a man when I eat STEAK.

But if what you want is expertly cooked meat (or steak with a lower case ‘s’) at a truly affordable price in a completely charming restaurant, then head over to Flat Iron. The cocktails were tasty (and created especially to complement the steak) - I had a smoked thyme bramble which was lovely and yes, very smoky and thymey, and the wait staff are incredibly friendly. I think it would make a lovely addition as a casual place you can drop in with a group of friends before a night out or a few jars downstairs. Even the presentation is geared towards a convivial group sitting as you can fit several portions of steak on each board, to then pass between you. 

Meat for two with bloody mary sauce and bearnaise
They are also currently serving for dessert (again at only £2.50) a scrumptious chocolate caramel ‘mousse’. Nevermind that the consistency of it was completely different to any mousse I’ve ever had (it was thicker and more solid, heading towards ice cream territory – maybe like semifreddo), the taste was amazing. Our waitress put them down before us and took a pinch of sea salt and crumbled it over the top. It went perfectly, which will come to no surprise to anyone who has tapped into the current salted caramel craze. We really do need to put more salt into sweet stuff.

Flat Iron is only around for another four weeks as it stands. I really like what they’re trying to do and the amount of effort that has gone into the place. They're not just making steak affordable, they're making eating out in general affordable. Everyone go and ensure it makes the transition from pop-up to permanent. 

Press presenting your bill

Square Meal

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