One of the things we’re aiming to do at Straight Up London is to create a useable guide to London: something that isn’t just interesting to read, but that is helpful for people deciding where to eat tonight. It’s why we’re putting so much effort into the food map (which now has 93 recommendations!) and generally try to emphasise things like portion size and price, which are probably too gauche for ‘real’ reviewers, but matter a lot to people who want dinner.
It’s impossible to discuss Flat Iron without mentioning this, because Flat Iron offers a meal of almost unbelievable value. It would be good at twice the price; as it is, it is unmissable.
The one main course on the menu is a ‘flat iron’ cut of steak, plus specials – on the Monday we went, a hamburger with shallots and bearnaise sauce and a rump cut that had sold out by 6:30pm. This costs a mere £10.
It’s difficult to emphasise how inexpensive this is for a steak of any quality. Crap pubs typically sell 8oz cuts of rump steak for £12-13, and these are generally grey and depressing. But Flat Iron’s steak is meaty, beefy, richly flavoured and cooked perfectly – seared on the outside and a deep, luscious pink throughout. (They offer the steak cooked either medium rare or well done – two choices.)
At about 200g (7oz), it is not enormous, but I savoured ever little bite, mopping up the meat juices as I went.
The small green salad that comes with this is dressed simply, and gives a few nice sharp bites to go with the beef. The chips were nicely crunchy and had a hint of beefy flavour, and went well in the bearnaise sauce (which is probably my favourite dip for chips, come to think of it).
The only misstep was the blue cheese and candied pecan salad, which didn’t hang together physically very well – we’d eaten half of it before we realised that all the bits of pecan were at the bottom of the bowl. It seemed a little pointless, but no matter.
Flat Iron, we were told, doesn’t really do desserts or post-meal coffee, but you get a free caramel ice-cream on the way out. I liked the unfussy atmosphere, and our waitress was friendly and attentive despite it being very busy (on a Monday night!). The super-sharp cleaver-shaped knives are a fun touch, too.
We didn’t linger, and I suspect this is part of how Flat Iron can do what it does: quick turnaround and economies of scale from only having one menu item mean you can get an astonishingly high-quality meal for very little in the tourist centre of London. Get people in and out quickly (without making them feel rushed – the ice-cream is a nice nudge), bulk-buy one main ingredient, and cook it in one of two ways to save on labour costs.
Our meal for two came to £42 including a beer each.
Like Napoleon, whose military genius was in the logistics of feeding and moving his armies around more effectively than his enemies, Flat Iron is a triumph of economics above all else. And it really is a triumph.
Score: Two medals (for an explanation of our scoring system, see here).