As a person, I have a tendency to go all in on many aspects of life, even if it results in going above and beyond my means – whether this be physical, financial, emotional or otherwise. On the other end of the spectrum, anything less and I tumble into what can only be considered a state of complete apathy. Finding myself comfortably settled between two extremes is an absurd rarity.
For better or worse, this often means that when the seed of an idea is planted in my little mind, I pound it with antibiotics and plant hormones until suddenly it is a heavy, fruit-laden tree and everyone is complaining about its health benefits.
Such was the case when I decided to make the move to London. As if packing up the perfectly-formed life I had built for myself in Sydney was not enough, I decided I would go the extra mile and tack on a six month adventure in the lead up to my relocation [what is that saying about the camel and some straw?]. In any case, my world tour took me to Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Peru, the US and, finally, to London…where I found myself broke as F.
Funny how the state of your bank balance can suddenly kick-start you into overdrive. In, what was for me, record timing, I had found myself a decent job, an apartment to call home, a reliable friend circle and was well on my way to building a comfortable life on the other side of the pond.
The only problem with starting back at square one is that it often provides very little room to move when it comes to enjoying those finer things. In my case, this [predictably] centred on dining out. Everything else aside, in those first few money-minimal months, I did become quite good at seeking out places I could happily skip off to and keep within the realms of any kind of budget – which, believe me, is not always the easiest of things to do in a city like London.
I had a selection of favourite pubs under wraps. I knew which spots put on a good value lunch offer. And places like Kanada-Ya became my go-to whenever I was in need of a bit of comfort. [FYI the cheap-eats scene shines even brighter with the likes of Padella, Hoppers and Ahi Poké now on the cards and within my sights!].
Years have now passed and I am far more settled in what has become my home town. However, I still return time and time again to the places that got me off the ground when I first arrived. Not solely because they were there for me when I needed them most, but because they are good. And also because it still feels wonderful to save a pretty penny on any given night out in London.
Of these, my favourite was, and remains to be, Flat Iron.
In those days, there was just the one outpost on Beak Street in Soho…these days, there are four. My top pick is the one on Henrietta Street in Covent Garden. Mostly because on top of the complimentary beef dripping popcorn received at the beginning of the meal throughout all Flat Iron restaurants, you also get a salted caramel ice-cream on your way out. Easily sold? Perhaps. A cheap ploy to turn the tables slightly quicker? Almost certainly. But hey, who cares…FREE ICE CREAM!
With Saturday night comedy booked nearby, I dragged my favourite date night counterpart [Subby Hubby, obviously] for a pre-laughter meal. I breathed a sigh of relief when he proclaimed a love in line with my own and he left excited to bring The Italian along for next time.
There is always a bit of a wait for a table at Flat Iron – but, as with Hoppers, they welcome you to leave your name on a list so you can wander off for a wine (or three, depending on waiting time) and they call you once space becomes available. I am not sure exactly how long we waited on this occasion, but I do recall that it was not a sufficient amount of time to work my way through a large glass of vino, so it can’t have been too long.
Efficiently gathering a mug full of fresh beef dripping popcorn along the way, we were seated and handed the straightforward menu.
First things first! Cocktails. I had the Strawberry and Sloe Gin Bellini (£5.50).
Subby Hubby had the Flat Iron Julep (£6.50), with Bourbon, fresh mint, orange and rosemary syrup.
Decisions taking no time at all, we each ordered the namesake steak, a handful of sides and a carafe of French Malbec (£15 for 500mL). An easy order is a good order!
Everything was quick to the table, starting with the flat iron (£10). Tender, juicy and flavourful, it was perfectly cooked to order. It came with a refreshing house leaf salad and both Subby Hubby and I also opted for a pot of fresh horseradish cream (£1) on the side.
Forever a fiend for fries, the satisfyingly crisp dripping-cooked chips (£2.50) were all kinds of amazing.
Although not much to look at, the creamed spinach (£3) was also good.
However, it was the roast aubergine (£3.50) that really won me over with its tomato, basil and parmesan flavours.
My least favourite of the sides was Sophie’s salad (£3.50). It had a good mix of market leaves, blue cheese, candied pecans and a lemon dressing…but it just didn’t do all that much for me and I was far more interested in stealing more than my fair share of fries and aubergine.
Upon calling for the bill, our waitress brought us two tokens that afforded us a takeaway cone from the stand at the front of the restaurant. Salted caramel coated in milk chocolate flakes? How can you lose! We left happy.
I don’t think I have ever had anything less than a great time on any given night spent at Flat Iron. Go pop your name on the list, have a few drinks in the buzzy neighbourhood surrounds and then eat what must be one of the best value steaks – nej, meals! – in Central London. I guarantee you will leave well-fed and with a smile.
And if you’re anything like me, you will probably float away from Flat Iron on a cloud of self-congratulation, because…my god, you’re good at budgeting.