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...