My kids, aged 12, 9 and 6, love nothing better than a Flat Iron Steak. Yes, they are spoilt. But, yes, I love them enough to give them the best food I can afford. And al that blood coursing around their little bodies needs plenty of iron to sustain it.
But I digress: the Flat Iron (or Butler’s, or Top Flank) is cut from the shoulder of the cow.
Cooked properly, it is a wonderful piece of meat. Wonderfully juicy with bags of beefy flavour and just the right toothsome texture.
Cooked badly, it is like chewing carpet underlay.
The way I cook it for my kids? Pretentiously. I first vac-pack it and then drop it into a Sous Vide water bath at 57C for two hours, before flash-frying it, then slicing it.
Well, I don’t want their little teeth to fall out. Them’s dentist’s bills are darned expensive!
But I digress again. Soz.
My foodie friend Danny alerted me to the phenomenon that is the Flat Iron Steakhouse in Beak Street in London’s Soho.
The concept is as basic as one of my favourite restaurants, The Chicken Shop in London’s Kentish Town: there is one main ingredient (Flat Iron Steak), plus chips, plus a few sides. And that is pretty much it.
I had spent many a minute drooling over the various reviews of the Beak Street branch, but being a time-poor dad, I was put off by the onerous waiting time for a no-reservations table.
In this review, for example, by a chap called The City Owl, he waited for TWO HOURS before sitting down to eat.
Yes, he declared it one of the best steaks he’d ever eaten. But TWO HOURS! Can you really trust the judgment of somebody who has waited for TWO HOURS?
You’re bound to be grateful, or so utterly, totally hammered that you start to believe a steak is caviar, or so utterly, totally hypnotised by looking at the face of your watch every two minutes while muttering, ‘How the fuck much longer?’ that you’d believe an apple is an onion.
For that reason, the Beak Street was consigned to the back burner for me, for I would rather pull out my own teeth and slot them back in again than wait for TWO HOURS for anything.
But then Danny joined the mailing list. And Danny got an alert. and that alert said the Flat Iron Steakhouse was opening a new branch in nearby Denmark Street. And that email alert added that it wasn’t shouting from the rooftops about it because it needed to get its shit together (I’m paraphrasing) and (flat) iron out its creases (see what I did there?) before spreading the meaty gospel.
And Danny said: ‘We should go for it.’
And what Danny says, goes. He should change his name to Simon.
So, lo, on Wednesday night, we wandered past 9 Denmark Street – and nearly missed it.
There was no signage. Just a hole in a wall. But after asking the owners of a couple of guitar shops whether they sold steaks, we eventually clocked that that hole in the wall was in fact the hole-y grail: the new brach of the Flat Iron Steakhouse.
‘Where’s the queue?’ I asked my friend.
‘Where’s the queue?’ I asked the waiter.
It was a quarter full, if that. At 8pm on a Wednesday night. We had stumbled into a secret. It felt like entering one of those private members’ clubs that only celebrities (or their ‘people’) know about.
We were shown straight to a table in what had the feel of a Mediterranean courtyard. No queuing. No waiting. Oh, for the first time in my life, I felt like God might actually exist.
The waiters were lovely. Jobbing actors, a couple of them. On their first shifts, for which they apologised.
‘Bear with me,’ one said, before dropping a tray of crockery on the floor.
It didn’t matter. They were nice, ordinary, friendly, matey, learning on the job. I’m cool with that. I’m still learning how to write a decent blog.
The menu was as simple as the reviews of Beak Street have said: steak, chips, side, drink. But with additions of a £40 rib-eye steak on the bone to share (which we didn’t have), and desserts (which we didn’t have).
‘I’ve come for the Flat Iron,’ I said to Danny. ‘I didn’t wait for 30 seconds not to have the Flat Iron.’
When it ‘eventually’ (I’m trying to be amusing) arrived after about four minutes, it was, to be frank, a bit underwhelming: a bit on the small side, a bit on the thin side.
But for a tenner, I couldn’t and shouldn’t have expected more, size-wise (a 230g Flat Iron Steak will cost you about a fiver from a butcher or supermarket).
However, it was nowhere near the OMG steak experience other bloggers have written about their Beak Street outings.
It was perfectly cooked as recommended (medium-rare) and the meat was tender yet toothsome, with a fabulous flood of meaty juices in the mouth.
But the crust – that caramelised crunchy thing of wonder caused by the Maillard reaction (when high heat turns starch into sugar) – was non-existent.
And the steak was, well, cold, which made sense because it was served to us in such super-quick time that I suspect it had been resting on a not-very-hot plate and was pretty much ready to go the moment we walked in the door.
These things, I’m sure, are teething troubles – hence the un-shouty opening.
The pluses were the sides: fantastically crunchy chips; creamed spinach with a glorious hint of nutmeg; ‘seasonal greens’ (cabbage and peas), which were cooked to al dente perfection; a zingy watercress salad; and a couple of sauces (Bearnaise and ‘Fred’s – a tabasco/tomato salsa) that we used to dip our chips in.
So, the verdict: Probably the best restaurant steak for a tenner I’ve eaten (I can’t remember ever paying less in recent years) and if I could guarantee walking in and getting a table, I’ll be back in a shot. Unfortunately (for me), but fortunately (for them), I imagine there will be queues around the block when word catches fire and, sadly, at my age, I need to know I’m going to get a table before the man with the scythe turns up.