SCORE: 75/100 / CCC Rating: *** / Cost Rating: £
Ambience: 8/10 / Wine: 2011 Cuvee M, Grand Malbec, France, £22.50, 7/10 / Toilets: 7/10 / Service: 8/10 : Food (excl. steak): 12/20 / Steak: 15/20 / Menu/table quality: 7/10 / Value for money: 10/10 / +1 Wifi bonus
For this, our seventeenth outing, Kong briefly returns to the Council from the 'steak-poor' shores of Australia, and finds himself in a 1-month-old steakhouse with two front doors (everyone irresistibly tries the locked one first), two floors of benches, and only two cuts on the 'menu'. Flat Iron was wrought from the ashes of a Shoreditch pop up, when its owner stumbled upon a plot just off Regents Street. Entering the venue unleashes roaring 'big band swing', open brickwork & breezeblocks which peer over faux-ancient iron light fittings, and a single table in the whole restaurant - which the council takes. The rest of the space is occupied by 4 communal benches and a small romantic enclave for two. Then there's the identical floor above. At full tilt they can seat 60 & run 250 covers a day - an impressive asset utilisation rate in such a compact space!
The side stuff
Rather than bread-whilst-you-wait, a topical 'beef-dripping and thyme salt' popcorn more than amuses the anxious taste-buds, and ensures that nobody is stubbornly full on carbs when steak arrives. The menu, whilst basic and focussed, is in keeping, hung on the wall, and altogether quite welcoming! You can have flat iron steak, or you can have the special, which tonight is the Wagyu sirloin (usually Wagyu filet). There are but 5 simple sides on offer; there are but 4 basic sauces on offer. In some circumstances and at some venues, this might be considered thoughtlessly narrow, restricted and limiting. But here, in this warming environment, it's a relief to be faced with so few complications.
Steak is ordered (2 Flatirons, 2 Wagyu sirloins) and takes a mere 5 minutes to arrive. Whilst the Flatiron is a new cut not yet encountered, the Wagyu sirlon is an old friend of the Council's, and a rare pleasure. All of the meat is sourced from Ireland and Yorkshire, all grass and then corn-fed. The headline flatiron cut comes from the shoulder where it 'suffers' gristle above and below - though there is none
on our cuts. The texture and taste are superb, with the Wagyu packing a velvety-tender punch - but what genuinely differentiates this offering is the impossibly low cost; £10 for 225g of beautifully edible flatiron is a puzzling anachronism in this day and age, and certainly for this city. The Wagyu option commands only a £6 premium for an identical weight. In short, it's cheaper than Garfunkles with quality that's higher than L'Entrecôte (with whom comparisons must be drawn). You enjoy the steak all the more because of what you're paying for it!
In terms of non-steak, the chips, whilst lacking any innovative twist, are just really good chips, but as if an afterthought that's absent from the menu, desert is an oral tradition. Tonight's Salted Caramel Mousse literally lacks physical substance and seems little more like a whipped topping for an (absent) more substantial dessert. Yes it's theatrically 'prepared' in front of you from a pressurised container but could more sensibly be described as a savoury 'toffee air'. The rhubarb and custard doughnut dessert, their only other choice, was underwhelming and immediately forgettable. So dessert is clearly not to reason to come here.
But: It's cute (the steak knives are tiny little polished meat-cleavers). It's cosy (there's an old-fashioned dumb waiter, warmly romantic lighting, and gently lulling music). And it's a solid 75% score. In short, it has a definite 'date-place' vibe; casual, and tinged with Shoreditch laissez-faire. You can't book, you just turn up. And the quorum would happily 'just turn up' again at Flat Iron; we waited 0 minutes for our table, 1 minute for the popcorn, seemingly 2 minutes for our steak, and were served by polite, helpful and knowledgeable staff. Come here to impress on a budget, and come before word gets out!