Orford Flat Iron Norwich is a steak restaurant that opened in September 2017. This review was written in November from an early Tuesday evening visit. Why am I providing such mundane information up front? Because this is gonna hurt…and I feel bad about it!
I once watched an episode of one of Rick Stein’s shows, whereby our usually well mannered grandpa Cornish Chef and cookery teacher lost his temper over a badly cooked steak in a motorway services in France. At least I think it was in a motorway services in France, I tried to look it up but couldn’t find it – if you know, post it in comments and I’ll update this.
Anyway, I think he’d had a couple of glasses of wine but his grievance was perfectly reasonable “it’s not bloody hard to cook a steak well”. Now, for some reason I used to struggle with steak until my mother bought me the Morton’s Steakhouse Cookbook – probably because I cooked her a poor steak. I followed their opinion and now have perfect steak every time and it’s really not difficult.
I don’t cook many steaks compared to Orford Flat Iron’s Chef Patron, Thomas Aubrit. He must cook a lot of em, so it must have been a bad day.
Orford Flat Iron is on Orford Yard, Red Lion St and before you get near the door you’re feeling pretty good about what’s to come. The discreet door opens to a small (probably less than 30 covers) and potentially cosy restaurant. The decor is good, grey walls, loads of wood and a kitchen hatch to let you see the guys at work.
Problem! Why can’t some people get lighting right? This place was brighter than the sun, despite the good decor, it was like going in to your Nan’s lounge – there’s no need. If you’ve been to a Hawksmoor in London you’ll know what I mean, the only light that counts is at your table, giving you warmth and the perception of privacy – intimate, that’s the word.
The greeting by the front of house, without a reservation, went well. The girl that looked after us was delightfully polite and friendly, which continued throughout the visit – might have made a couple of silly mistakes though.
Menu’s are well presented on a clip board, separate food and wine list, but maybe not easy to follow – you’ll see why.
Drinks first, small glass of Merlot, which now of course means 125ml, which in my mind was only reserved for sparkling. In an age of drinking less, 125ml is a cracking measure, but are you paying 175ml prices – you know, a tactic? Nope – £3.50 – that’s spot on. I went for a Gin and Slim, only given two choices, Hendricks or Monkey 47 – don’t know how much it was going to be or if it was 25ml or 50ml. Also, no slimline tonic, full on fever tree.
Delivered to the table in a heavy scotch tumbler, with some ice but no lime (or lemon) – what’s all that about? Upon request a segment of lime duly arrived, quick squeeze and rub and I’m tasting one of the best G&T’s I’ve had in ages. Could have been the tonic, could have been the gin or could have been my ace lime squeezing skills – who cares, it was amaze. I didn’t know at the time it was £9 – but, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Order consisted of two courses each, I kicked off with Chicken Livers in cognac and cream served on toasted ciabatta and rocket.
I followed that with steak and made a massive error – huge. I didn’t notice, this is my fault, so be warned OK? They don’t give you a price. They have a Flat Iron Steak, this is a cheap cut from the shoulder, more like a chunk of steak for £9 – that’s clear.
Above that is something called ‘Speciality Steak of the Week’, whatever that means because the choice was Sirloin, Fillet, Rib-eye or even a T-bone. So normal ‘non speciality’ steaks then? Maybe it’s the way they cook it – nope.
I chose a rib-eye RARE and didn’t ask how much it was, they also didn’t tell me – the menu does say ask. It’s a menu so I don’t want to ask, unless it’s lobster maybe. I’m not signing a contract – (although strictly speaking you are making one)….but come on, that’s not fair. The mains didn’t come with sides, so you have to wang that on top. I went with Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms for £3 and Asian Som-Tum Slaw for £3. I added a blue cheese sauce for £2.
I’ll just say it now, the sides were excellent and the slaw was off the scale good – order that for sure. My blue cheese sauce was rather thin and lacking a bit of punch.
My buddy went for some non-sizzling – sizzling prawns with garlic butter and chilli and a Flat Iron Steak MEDIUM RARE with Thrice Cooked Fries (drowned in oil more like) and ‘that’ Asian slaw.
Starters – both dry. My chicken livers must have been sat for a little while as the cream sauce has formed a little skin on the top and wasn’t ultra hot. The prawns, were just dry. He did say they tasted good though. The chicken liver was really overcooked, they should melt in the mouth, but you know when liver takes on that dry and grainy texture, I got a beak full of that? Not a great start.
The steaks – OMG – they were cooked so poorly. My RARE rib-eye was medium-well at best and for some reason it got rarer toward one end even though it was the same thickness throughout. The MEDIUM RARE Flat Iron came big time rare – I was well miffed. It is very possible and likely that the waitress got them the wrong way round – but mine was still beyond medium and if the orders were mixed, my pal wanted medium-rare.
When you’re ordering steak you want it perfect, especially in a steakhouse – there is no room for error, it’s just not on.
They serve the steaks up in a skillet that could have been hotter, which would only have cooked them even more of course. Ironically the sizzling prawns was also served on a warm skillet, but on a bed of rocket – eh?
Coffee and the bill. My share of the bill was £43.50 before a tip – with one alcoholic drink I felt that was a little steep, bearing in mind I’d just eaten at Rambla in Soho for less than that.
I feel bad about this review, it’s a new place and I would love it to be amazing – but Norwich does have a lot of competition. I think they made a few mistakes, that’s all and had I been more savvy about the menu, like you now are, I could have managed the budget a little better.
Tripadvisor has them running at 4.5 stars, that’s amazing and I do think they are capable of delivering that – let’s put it down to a bad night and give them the benefit of the doubt. I even feel they could be worth a second chance.
Therefore, I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a bad place to visit. If you fancy it, you should give it a go for sure, but keep your wits about you…and wear shades.
We paid the bill to keep it real.
PRICE: £ £
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