We sit across from one another, the tea-light slowly dwindling between us, – it’s probably physically wilting as a direct result of our conversation – and discuss the food.
“First thoughts: the chips were lovely,” George starts. This is a safe opening, I can agree with that. George’s comments on food are rarely deniable, but the mode of delivery is invariably ridiculous. So far this evening there hasn’t been a huge amount of absurdity. “They’ve evidently been fried in the fat of an animal that was deeply unhappy,” he continues… and I regret asking him for his opinion.
The evening had begun in Covent Garden in an aimless search for celebratory food. I had received my year abroad placement, an email that had arrived during a rather slow rehearsal we had failed to prepare for. It had been the surprising saving grace of an ungenerous day. And so we’d ventured out in search of good food and wine. The restaurants were inundated with theatre-goers enthused with pre-Lion King excitement. We eventually came across a sweet Italian café that had space, and rejected it on various grounds, before remembering the 50% discount code we had for Flat Iron.
This, then, explains the schlepp to Shoreditch – we have pretentious tastes, but the bank accounts of students who should stop asking their parents for money. Finding the restaurant was theoretically easy. In practice, however, it wasn’t. I need not dwell on my thinly veiled annoyance at having been led around the Old Street roundabout twice, while George spoke to several mysterious Russian women on the phone (ostensibly to organise a gig in Moscow) and forgot where he was walking. We eventually found the place, and sat at the bar enjoying cocktails chilled with ice chipped off from a block before our eyes, while we awaited our table.
It was well worth the wait. Warmed by our Caipirinhas we munched on the complimentary popcorn while admiring the tiny meat cleavers at the place settings in place of knives. The stripped down feel of the building, the mixture of glass, wood, metal, and reclaimed furniture made me glad I was wearing my cool distressed jeans. The menu was simple and we chose the signature steak with chips and greens.
“The broccoli was disappointing. I expected something that was maybe caramelised, or at least with some flavour. I was left with a broccoli that can only be described as boiled.”
The broccoli was, indeed, boiled. I made the most of the béarnaise sauce and was rewarded. I was fairly pleased with my broccoli, but then again, I am not the expert. The beef dripping chips were, as previously discussed, supreme. We sat and enjoyed the liberal opportunities for people watching; a couple who stared intently at each other without saying a word, a work party, a friend of my brother’s, a woman who sat alone with a serving of spinach. There was an open fire at the far end of the room, a large carcass slowly turning on a spit above the flames. The smoke mingled with the music and the evening passed pleasantly.
“The meat was successfully tender.”
The flat iron cut was juicy, richly flavoured, and – yes – beautifully tender. It crossed my mind that the necessity of the branded meat cleaver was called into question. As much as I wanted to have a good old go with it, my meat was served already cut. It was a deep sense of conflict that stirred within me; while it added to the aesthetic, it left me with a feeling of disappointment. Why offer a cleaver, but no opportunity to put it to the test? We enjoyed wine with the meal, which we had decided on together before ordering:
“The Malbec will be heavier, while the Merlot will be rich with fruity undertones, which might go better with the steak. But what would you like?”
The fruity undertones complemented the food better than orange juice or a champagne cocktail would have done. I felt dwarfed by George’s knowledge. We talked of wine, and how expensive it was to sustain a civilised drinking habit as a student.
“When I receive my first pay check, I will be joining a wine club immediately.”
George added. I nodded sincerely; it was a reasonable plan for a twenty-two year old man who wanted to fast forward to middle-aged life without first hiring and seducing a secretary/nanny or buying a Saab convertible. George raved about his recent subscription to the Vivino app, which updated him regularly on 5* wines on sale for as little as £130 for a case. Probably best to wait for the pay check…