£10 steaks & cleaver cutlery; the joy that is Flat Iron…

It’s no secret that London can be an expensive place to eat. For every Michelin starred restaurant that’s worth the splurge but requires a re-mortgage of your house, there’s a hidden gem where you can fill your face for under a fiver but often, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This quandary between eating well and having a roof over your head is what makes Flat Iron such a head-nodding, back-slapping, applause-giving winner in the value, the taste & the experience stakes. Yep. Believe the hype and get in line now. ‘But it’s only Monday’ I hear you cry…’but it’s amazing steak for a tenner in London…’ I holler back.

There are now 3 of these steak meccas in central London making any one of them a great shout for meeting up with friends but the newest incarnation on Henrietta St is especially worth a visit. Whereas the others are intimately small (great for dates, lousy for queues), this is the biggest and hopefully, the one that’ll boast a quicker turnaround of tables. Arriving at 6pm on a Friday night, tables for 2 were hitting the 60-minute wait mark – any more in your group and you’re looking at nearer 90-minutes but let’s be honest, it’s not like you’re in a barren wasteland devoid of refreshment. Fling a cocktail umbrella into the street and it’ll land on the doorstep of any one of a dozen spots bidding for your Happy Hour custom as the weekend kicks off so put your name down at the restaurant, give them your number then go get involved with something bubbly to wash away the work week.

After only 45 minutes wait, we were led through the snugly lit and packed restaurant to a cosy table near the back. Staff were Friday-vibe cheery as they explained the menu – which TBH doesn’t require much brain power given its brevity – and delivered mugs of beef dripping popcorn with a smile. Yeah, you read right. Beef dripping popcorn – a near perfect snack for soaking up the drink or two you’ll have already had without filling up precious steak room in your stomach.

As I mentioned, the food choices are short. No, really they are. This place boasts the Danny DeVito of menus. It’s basically steak. There might be a burger on the specials board but if you’ve come here and queued here and got excited to be sat here, then I know you’re here for the meat. Drop your veggie friends off at nearby Mildred’s, tuck a napkin in your collar and get ready for the meat.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

A £10 cut of beef from the shoulder is your only option but unlike other ‘one dish’ places in London, this one knows what it’s doing. Our steaks came medium rare as suggested, and within what felt like minutes of ordering. What’s extra nice about Flat Iron is that despite service being prompt, once it arrives, you’re very much left alone with no constant ‘how’s it going?’ which can often imply more of a concern with when you’ll be giving the table back as opposed to how you’re enjoying your meal. We were never ignored but we didn’t feel rushed for a second and as this was a girly catch up of the red wine fuelled variety – alarmingly quaffable Malbec FYI – it was appreciated.

The steak itself was superb. Flawlessly cooked and served in plumply blushing slices on a board unfussed with anything else, it was juicy, pink & tender. The quirky cleaver that comes with your fork – and a plea not to be pilfered at the end of the meal – sliced through with the minimum of bother and a generous pot of accompanying house salad was fresh, crunchy & tangy with mustard.

Sides of creamed spinach and broccoli were deliciously creamy & firm and ‘Sophie’s Salad’ was generously peppered with chunks of blue cheese, candied pecans and lemon dressing. Getting any cut of steak right is something that’s befuddled dozens of other places in London but a confident streamlining of the menu here shows exactly how you should get it right.

If anything can make me love a place more than a perfect slab of meat, it’s the bestowing of a free salted caramel ice-cream cone at the end of the meal. Creamy, sweet and speckled with chocolate shavings, it’s literally everything you want when your belly is full of cow but your second – and entirely separately – stomach is open for business and open for dessert and it finished girls night on just the right note.

It’s brave to only sell one thing in a restaurant and a lot of the time it’s foolish, pointless or downright annoying. For every Smack Lobster or Balls and Company (yay), there’s a Cereal Killer Café or a Hip Chips (yawn). You gotta pick what you’re cooking carefully and then you’ve gotta actually make it worthwhile paying for. Luckily Flat Iron has done both and long may they continue to do so – the capital’s steak scene is all the better for it.

 

Covent Garden gets a taste of France with Mamie’s beautiful crepes & cider…

Hot Dinners is something of a bible for me when it comes to what’s new on London’s edible landscape and ever since they announced way back in April that a new crepes & cider based restaurant was opening in Covent Garden, I’ve been one of those ridiculously annoying jolly enthusiastic people who hang around shops first thing in the morning waiting for them to open. A little Twitter following here, a little Instagram peeking there and maybe even a hopeful visit while the poor team were still installing the chic copper fittings & minimal branding made me something of a Gallic stalker but what can I say? I like crepes, I like cider, I like Covent Garden and thankfully I can now say that I like Mamie’s. I really like it.

Tucked away down Catherine St, this is a sweet little place with a curiously charming mix of the traditional – French galettes & crepes made to order – and the modern – ordering via iPad at the table. The last time I had to order my dinner via the legacy of Steve Jobs was at Inamo where the whole experience was as enjoyable as root canal surgery; here it was simple, uncomplicated & fuss-free with no waiter coming over to read back your order and no need to check in half an hour later as to where your supper was due to a frozen screen. img_9166

Inside on a crisp December evening with the Christmas lights twinkling outside, it was romantically dark & cosy with small ‘date night’ tables for two, larger spots for groups of friends and stools in the window, perfect for people watching on the eternally busy streets outside.

Service was friendly & sincere and the food, quite frankly, splendid. Galettes here are crazily light & crispy and also gluten free thanks to their buckwheat base. Ours came beautifully folded over a generous filling of goats’ cheese & honey and rolled around sausage, onions & wholegrain mustard. Both were spot on in terms of flavour, texture and appearance plus at under £8 each and amply sized for sharing, they were a pretty-close-to-perfect price point.

You have the option for personalising anything you order so if you fancy a bit of blue cheese, pear & walnut ‘Edith Piaf’ atop your wafer thin, burnished gold & ham-cheese-and-egg stuffed galette, well then you go right ahead. The French are refreshingly unapologetic when it comes to what they want so channel that spirit here.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

With a waistband already distinctly tighter than it had been twenty minutes before, dessert was contemplated, mused and mulled over…then duly ordered. Please. As if there was ever any real doubt.

Crepes here brought to mind dreamy reminiscencs of past summers holidaying on the French coast where a post-dinner stroll along the seafront to have dessert was a highlight of each salty, sun drenched evening. Beautifully thin & soft, go ultra classic with an understated sprinkling of lemon & sugar, indulge your inner 12 year old with chocolate & marshmallows or simply copy me and dive face first into La Magritte, which comes with home cooked apples, vanilla bean speckled ice-cream and one of the best caramels I’ve ever had. Sweet, sticky and liberally draped over the pancake, I’d happily have bought a bucket full to bathe in. Messy? Sure. Worth it? Hell yes.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Tangy, sweet & cloudy ciders from Brittany and Normandy hit the spot for us although there’s also a succinct yet decent looking cocktail menu that I’m pretty sure would lure me back again without too much effort on a cold evening in January when the charm of the festive season is long gone. To be fair though, the cider is only one of the things that will bring me back to Mamie’s and even that will have to wrestle with those crispy galettes and THAT caramel sauce for the top spot in my list of reasons to return. If you need nourishment of the stomach and the spirit in Covent Garden, Mamie’s is exactly the place you’ve been waiting for….just not as long as me.

Cheap, cheerful & cheekily delicious Indian wraps at Kati Roll Co…

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Cheap food that tastes great in a central location. It’s not actually asking for the world though it sometimes feels like it. Thankfully, tucked away down Poland St is a bright little oasis where you can happily hide from the Big-Ben-snowglobe-toting tourists of Oxford St and feed your face in peace.

When Time Out published their annual list of 100 Cheap Eats in London earlier this year, it became one of my most read & scribbled on articles – hey, I love cyberspace as much as the next gal but at heart, I’m old school. I like to rip pages out of magazines and I like to circle things and I have folders that I can’t actually close because there are too many torn out recipes and articles and reviews in it…anyone else simultaneously share my joy and feel my pain?! Anyway, my point is there are some brilliant hidden treasures on that list and here, with the Kati Roll Company, I’m sharing one of the best.

Kati comes to London via New York, where they’re lucky enough to have three branches of the restaurant, and India where the history of street food is vivid & delicious. Selling soft, flaky, buttery paratha wraps (so good you’ll want to buy a dozen and stuff them with everything you eat for days after) or simple, whole-wheat flour rotis filled with spiced meat, vegetables and cheese, these babies are light, filling and super tasty plus you’ll get change from a tenner and you’ll find yourself plotting opportunities to come back again and again. How do I know? Come on, who actually goes to Oxford St voluntarily? No-one that’s who, unless there’s something rather awesome to snack on as a reward.

Even though the restaurant itself is small, the décor is cheery, authentic and friendly as is the service and there are 13 different rolls on the menu catering for all tastes. Chickpeas, egg, cheese & potatoes will keep vegetarians happy whilst chicken, prawn, lamb & beef mean the carnivores are all set too.

Spices, pickles and chutneys keep things flavourful and fresh while cold beers go down a treat and mango lassis are made freshly every day. I once had an intervention staged on me at an Asian wedding because I couldn’t stop downing the jugs of mango lassi on the table so now, I’m not ashamed to say I get my fix wherever and whenever I can.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Rolls range from just under £3 to just over £5 and with all available on a ‘two for…’ deal, none of which come in at over £10, this is such a nifty little spot for a quick dinner with a friend.

Unsurprisingly perhaps given the national love for it, Chicken Tikka is the most popular and it is absolutely delicious – warm spices & tender meat make it a winning combination – but for me, it was all about the spicey-pickley marinated paneer which was firm, creamy and tangy. I’m a fervent believer that there’s nothing that can’t be made better with the addition of cheese and Indian incarnations of it are always particularly awesome. Hands up if you agree? Yeah, there you are, I see you.

There’s something about the fragrance of Indian food that triggers a primal reaction – I only have to walk past somewhere serving it and an hour later I’ll realise I’m nowhere near where I was going, I’m not doing anything remotely like whatever I had planned and poppadom crumbs are sprinkled down my shirt but I’m full and I’m happy and sometimes, that’s all that matters…guaranteed, Kati will make you feel that way too.