It was a cold, drizzly Wednesday night. It wasn’t even 7pm. Yet here we were, standing in the doorway of the new branch of Flat Iron, being told the wait for a table would be an hour and 20 minutes. ‘One hour and 20?!’ we squeaked, aghast. Still, there was a silver lining: this Covent Garden outpost of the hip steak hangout – the third one to date – has a long, shiny bar serving long, shiny cocktails, so there we waited.
As ways to kill 80 minutes go, it’s not too shabby. Our cocktails, chosen from a short menu of with-a-twist-classics, were rustled up by a cheery bartender who stayed smiling when we nearly forgot to pay him. A blood orange old fashioned saw its bourbon base deliciously spiked with smoked demerara syrup and blood orange oil; of this kind of tinkering with drinks, we approve. Before we knew it, an iPhone was buzzing, the time was up and our table was ready.
The beauty of Flat Iron is that while it’s no bookings, it’s also no choice. Which means that even if you do have to wait a while to be seated, the moment you sink your bottom on to a chair, you can go straight ahead and order. Sure, there’s the occasional blackboard special, but essentially the deal is this: one steak (a ‘flat iron’, the US term for a full-flavoured but affordable leg cut) for £10. It comes long and thin, like a deboned rabbit, then sliced into fat little mini-slabs, on a slate, with a dinky pot of lamb’s lettuce that’s more garnish than salad. Proper sides (crispy fries, steamed greens) are only £2.50 a pop. Everything we ate was just as it should be – which, when you factor in affordable wine (with plenty by both glass and carafe) and friendly, helpful staff, makes for a pretty good deal.
Then there’s the charm-bracelet-sized cleaver (a replica of the one provided for eating) they give you when you’re finished, so you can either grab a scoop of salted caramel ice cream with chocolate shaving from the ice cream bar as you leave or – if you’re local – ‘cash it in’ another time.
Finally, the large, stylish space: a failsafe combo of wood floors, exposed brick and designer lighting with a few Theatreland quirks (such as arches leading to more intimate ‘nooks’). All in all, it adds up to a great, and great-value, night out. No wonder there’s a queue.