January, but with a distinct feeling we’re over the hump now. Dark and cold, but a little less uninviting than the very depths of winter. That’s the feeling in the air as I head into the centre of Leeds to try out Flat Iron, the City’s most recent London export, and newest tenant of the Gothic Revival former Church Institute on the corner of Lands Lane.
Flat Iron has been serving up high quality (and highly affordable) steaks in Leeds since November, and down south for much longer. There are 12 venues in the capital and one in Cambridge, making the Leeds opening the steak supremo’s first venture up north. I, for one, am excited.
The atmosphere inside Flat Iron is buzzing with conversation, glowing with soft lighting and alive with the clink, clatter and sizzle of all things wine and steak. We take our seats at a table tucked away behind the broad staircase that leads to the restaurant’s second floor, where there’s more space to seat its maximum capacity of 110 diners.
We peruse the single sheet of A3 that comprises the menu. Our waiter has kindly left us with a bottle of citrus-infused tap water and a mug of warm, homemade popcorn, which makes for a playful start.
There are plenty of drinks possibilities – from cocktails and beers to homemade softies – but we opt for Flat Iron’s very own Smooth Malbec. Blended by the restaurant team using grapes grown in the Limoux area of the Languedoc, this tipple is designed as the perfect pairing for the menu. We have to say we agree. Full-bodied, fruity and silky smooth, it’s the crowd-pleasing wine made for quaffing with all the big flavours of expertly cooked steak.
Food-wise, the choices are simple. You’ve got your signature, 200g Flat Iron (that’s a tender, shoulder blade cut) steak for a reasonable £14. Other options include bavette and sirloin, but we opt for the eponymous dish served medium rare, as the chef recommends. From the specials board, we also select the day’s Wagyu steak, which comes either as a single or sharing portion.
The meat arrives cooked just right. The Flat Iron is juicy and full of beefy flavour – perfectly tender and seasoned well. The Wagyu is even more spot on, with that classic melting quality and a buttery flavour that has us literally savouring every mouthful.
We dip into pots of earthy wild mushroom and spicy peppercorn sauce, each with a lovely balance of flavour and smoothness of finish. You could also go for smoked chilli mayo or bearnaise, if you so desired.
To accompany these meaty masterpieces, diners can choose from a refined but all-encompassing selection of sides. We go for mac and cheese, beef dripping chips, creamed spinach and green salad – and none of them disappoint.
The pasta is rich and creamy, with just the right amount of truffle and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs for a delicious crunch. The chips are flaky and delicious, the perfect hybrid of homemade roasties and chip shop chips. The spinach is smooth and fragrant with nutmeg, and the salad is fresh and crunchy, laced with a creamy dressing that somehow still manages to seem light.
Pudding choices are not in abundance, but the restaurant’s iconic (and completely free) Tahitian vanilla soft serve more than makes up for the lack of choice. And, if ice cream’s not your thing, you could always ask for more popcorn – I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige.
With warm, attentive service and stunning steaks served in a low-key, charming atmosphere at unpretentious prices, Flat Iron is the kind of place worth getting excited about. Whether you’re popping in for an affordable treat or going all out with every steak, side and sauce on the menu, this place is well deserving of a visit.
Photography by Kate Ryrie.