Flat Iron – Beak Street
Posted on November 9, 2014
When a restaurant chooses to serve one dish it’s got to be good. When that thing is steak I wonder what’s the point.
I get it, every now and again people need a hunk of red meat. What better way to reassert man’s position at the top of the food chain than by tucking into an animal that is weaker than themselves. For blokes, there is nothing more manly than chewing on a thick piece of rump, wine-stained teeth bared, with bloody juices running into their beards whilst banging sharp serrated blades on rugged chopping boards.
And when this steak craving arrives, and it will, (but no more than once every couple of months) you go big. You find a Hawksmoor, a Goodmans or a Gaucho. You get the biggest, most extortionate one you can find. You have it with chips, something cheesy and get a needless extra: bone marrow, slabs of foie gras, a lobster tail; all the while thinking ‘fuck it’. You go home full and happy, loosen the laces on your shoes and wait for gout to set it. And although you’ve spent well over a hundred quid before drinks and are eating tinned beans for the next week, for those debaucherous couple of hours it was worth it.
But if you end up at Flat Iron, (and I say this because it’s the kind of place you wouldn’t set out to visit. Rather you’d remember it exists after boycotting the hour long queues at Burger and Lobster and feeling like something more restauranty than Grillshack) you don’t get much of a choice. The menu is as lean as the steak it serves. It’s the flat iron (a flavourful piece from the shoulder cut with the grain) or the daily special – usually another lesser-known cut they can offer for a basement price.
Its good; especially for a tenner. They recommend it medium rare and its about as good as a toughish cut of steak gets. But you’d hope so seeing as it’s the only thing on the menu. They manage to jazz it up in a gimmicky sort of way. It looks great sliced up into bite-sized pieces and flecked with sea salt on a special board with a metal bucket of peppery salad. The usual accompaniments: chips, greens and creamed spinach are all nice but an unfamiliar side dish of roast aubergine with tomato and Parmesan was the winner. Oozing like a gratin, the rich comforting layers were quite delicious.
The standard issue mini cleaver (the one it its logo) is a pointless inclusion, but around the room I saw people finding use for it sawing away at watercress leaves or dicing their steak for an Instagram picture looking like a kind of demonic steak ninja. The pepper grinders resembled medieval torture houses for peppercorns, elaborately mechanised with gears, cogs and wheels, and if you listened carefully you could just about hear the squeals from inside. It’s as if Flat Iron are fully aware of their culinary shortcomings but are hoping you’ll be too distracted by the curious tableware to notice.
In fact Flat Iron specialises in distraction. During the wait for a table – of course, there’s no booking – you’re handed a buzzer (I hate buzzers, nothing screams impersonality more than a flashing plastic block of table-turning technology) and sent into the basement for cocktails and doughnuts. Doughnuts? Who wants to start a meal with a bloody doughnut? Stick to the craft beers and cocktails that are two for one during early evenings. They get you picking at popcorn on dimly lit, communal tables surrounded by exposed brickwork whilst being waited on by attractive staff in aprons. It ticks all the boxes of a cool restaurant that could serve a petri dish of Mad Cow Disease and Londoners would still lap it up.
Flat Iron has made Beak Street its permanent home after a pop-up version was first hosted in the upstairs room of The Owl and Pussycat pub on Redchurch Street. And it has managed to translate all the trendiness that a pop-up commands into its new site. Although I criticize the gimmicks, they seem to work – the place is packed every day of the week. Flat Iron has, at the heart of its concept, a simple, tasty and very reasonable product. It’s the surrounding theatre that makes them so popular. It’s not necessarily my cup of popcorn but for many it’s great.