Saturday, 4 January 2014

Accidental Eats: Flat Iron

Ok, can London's restauranteurs make a shared new year's resolution? Please can 2014 be the year in which we kill off the 'no reservations' restaurant? Please?! When we first imported this dining format from New York it was sort of novel, and kind of fun. We felt cool dining at the hot new place in town, where we were just as good as every other diner in London and no one (least of all loathesome forward-planners) could sweep past us or get preferential treatment. We were patient enough to waste hours shivering on a pavement, our noses pressed to the glass, or knocking back several over-priced cocktails, watching others eat, when all we actually really wanted was a plateful of food. But now, enough!  I am done with all these places - they are not cool and egalitarian; they are pretentious, time-consuming, and some of them, trading on their trendy 'too cool for phone numbers' vibe, have got pretty complaisant and lazy and the food reflects that (ahem, MEATLiquor).

In 2014 I will no longer be a slave to this pretension. If I can't be guaranteed dinner within an hour at 8pm, forget it. I will not be conned by your claims to be above reservations books and door-keeping clipboard nazis, and I will see you, no reservations restaurants, for what you are - canny, money-makers, more interested in your brand's reputation and the queue out the door than feeding the patrons who come to sample your wares. Right. Done. 

But I'm going to have to allow myself one, tiny exception - Flat Iron, purveyors of the finest £10 steak in London. To give them their due, Flat Iron will allow you to arrive at their wee Beak Street restaurant on the fringes of Soho, leave you name and number at the door, and then they will call you when your table is ready. They offer a generous overestimation on their waiting time, which can be somewhat heart-stopping for the hungry, but bear with them. You can head downstairs to sample Flat Iron cocktails in the restaurant's own bar, or you can nip round the corner, as we did, to Hix and grab a little something to keep you going for an hour or so while you wait. (For a restaurant that can't seat more than about 25 at any one time however, the existence of 3 members of staff hovering on the door seems like slight overkill, but I digress...)
When the Accidental Boyfriend and I finally took our seats we found ourselves (as you likely will if you dine at Flat Iron a deux) joining two other pairs of people at a shared table for six. To pack in the punters and avoid any awkward jostling, Flat Iron has installed little centrally-fixed stools beneath these tables which is a cunning move, although for ladies in short skirts, climbing onto them without flashing your dining companion is a tricky manoeuvre! But once seated, things couldn't be easier. The menu is simple and fuss-free. You order a steak, as that's all there is, and you select a couple of sides to keep it company. Job done. Oh yes, and you order a carafe of wine. The only decision-making stress you may feel is if they are offering a speciality steak when you visit; we were offered a beautifully cooked onglet last week for a mere £15. But again, be not afraid, just order one of those and one of the house steaks and I promise you'll easily put both of them away, with the help of a friend. The steaks are utterly brilliant value for money. You get tasty cuts, cooked to perfection and an accompanying side salad gloriously dressed in tart tangy-ness. Oh and some pretty menacing silver-ware...
Should you have any space left after seeing away your steak, there will be pudding, although what it may be the day you visit Flat Iron I couldn't say. We were lucky to encounter an air-light salted caramel mousse - a little of which went a very long way! But we manfully struggled our way through two helpings. Just to be polite, you understand. An excellent two-course meal for two, plus wine, plus pudding came to a smidge over £50. I defy you to find better in London. And that's why, for all my best intentions, I fear I won't be able to entirely eschew 'no reservations' restaurants in 2014. Much though they drive me wild. But everyone's allowed the odd slip up on their new year's resolutions, right? Personal growth, it's the thought that counts, better to try and fail than not to try at all, something something...oh fine, I just bloody love this place, ok!

10 comments:

  1. Ah,the exceptions are usually the best! :) Mind you I don't usually bother with somewhere that doesn't have reservations on busy nights, it is a way of telling if a place is any good or not.

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    1. Quite..nothing more frustrating than not being able to find somewhere to eat on a busy evening; particularly one like the chilly, rainy evenings we've seen of late! I think I just find the practice of turning people away to make a restaurant feel special or exclusive is just a bit of a contradiction to its whole purpose of actually feeding people, Jenny!

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  2. I tried the Flat Iron beef belly at Feast a few months ago and it was SO amazing that I swore I'd visit the restaurant asap. Of course I still haven't been but I intend to go within the next month!!

    Totally agree with you re no reservation restaurants. I usually avoid them like the plague.

    Caroline x
    Cocktails and Caroline

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    1. Ooh, do go Caroline - bet you'd love it! Just go early and avoid the queues...look forward to hearing what you think about it.

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  3. I went to Flat Iron when it was just a pop-up and do want to go to their 'proper' restaurant. Had their beef belly at Feast a few months ago which was amazing! I'm not a fan of these no reservations places but what annoys me the most about them is when they don't let you put your name down and get called back - they force you to queue so you're basically a captive customer giving them money while you drink to while away the time. There's really no reason to have to queue in the days of mobile phones. My boyfriend are now masters at the art of getting somewhere when it opens so we don't have to queue!

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    1. Oh that is totally the worst, Jamina, I completely agree. I'm not waiting on any pavements in cold, rainy January, that's for sure! Totally snobby practice, and just trying to drum up attention for their restaurant I think...

      Hang on to that boyfriend, he sounds like a talented guy!

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  4. I feel much too old for places without any reservations. I love meat and would rally like to try but the thought of having to wait an hour is a no-no. I suppose I have become less and less patient!

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    1. You're definitely not alone, Muriel...I'm over that too! Maybe it is that we've both grown out of it...

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  5. I'm with you on this one. Can't be bothered with the oh so too cool restaurants. However have you noticed how the crowds abandon them as quickly as they arrived. London is not short of restaurants find another that serves good food.

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    1. Very true, Mo. Walked past Spuntino yesterday and you could have just walked straight in...silly really the cycle of popularity of restaurants, as their offering/food remains just the same.

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