Harley Young visits the steaks (while they’re still mooing) ahead of the Manchester restaurant’s launch on 3 July

London-born steak restaurant Flat Iron is opening its second restaurant up north, right here in Manchester, on Wednesday 3 July. 

Located in the heart of the city centre, the two-floor, 150-cover restaurant will take over the Grade II listed building at 200 Deansgate, previously occupied by Blacks. 

Bringing their single-minded commitment to serving ‘remarkable steak at an affordable price’ to us Mancunians, the restaurant’s concise yet considered menu is led by the signature ‘Flat Iron’ steak, taken from the often overlooked featherblade. A more affordable cut of meat that, when the cows have been reared with such care and are butchered with skill, produces a flavoursome, tender and juicy steak. 

Ahead of the opening, Assistant Publisher Harley Young was invited down to Thirsk in Yorkshire to meet third-generation beef farmer Charles Ashbridge who’s in charge of rearing and looking after Flat Iron’s own herd of Wagyu, before heading over to the Leeds restaurant to sample some of the dishes making their way over to Manchester very soon.

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Flat Iron's signature featherblade Image: Flat Iron

The History of Flat Iron

Flat Iron was founded back in 2012 by Charlie Carroll, who initially opened the concept as a pop-up above a pub in East London. Here, Charlie served a small menu but with the aim to produce everything to a really high standard, with the idea of making great steak available to everyone.  

Around 2016, Charlie and Head of Beef Fred Smith travelled to Thirsk to meet with British farmer Charles Ashbridge to discuss the possibility of rearing their own herd to produce consistently high quality beef. 

Charles took on the challenge and has since raised a herd of 40+ Wagyu cattle, all of which live a longer, stress-free life than commercially raised cows that are typically used in the beef industry.  

Meet the Flat Iron Herd

“We were supplying [Flat Iron] with beef and [Charlie] said to me ‘Look, I’d like something relatively consistent…could you set up a herd for me?’ which obviously is quite unique that any restaurant would ever want to give you tens of thousands of pounds to produce the best beef you possibly can,” explained Charles as he stood next to a small section of his herd of plump Waygu cattle, ready to be taken to slaughter within the next couple of days. 

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Charles Ashbridge, British Farmer Image: Confidentials

At the time, Charles was supplying Flat Iron with a range of beef from Dexters, Longhorns and Galloways, but Charlie wanted something a little more generic that would produce consistent meat. 

“I told Charlie that we ought to start out with Wagyu as we’re looking at the consistency and the eating quality - what it’s all about,” he said. “We then selected a herd of cattle to breed with and every generation after has become more pure.”

Charles explained that the cattle are usually ready to be turned into beef at around the 30 month mark. 

“We’ll never slaughter anything at 30 months if we don’t feel it’s ready,” he added.

The cattle in the pen pictured below are between 28-35 months old and have just been through their ‘store winter’ period, where they’re steadily fed but not pushed along, just left to grow gradually. 

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Wagyu ready to go Image: Confidentials

“If we feed them too much, they get too fat. That fat is external fat. What we’re trying to do is build internal, intermuscular fat for the marbling…basically what we’re trying to do is create a frame on the animal as it grows naturally,” Charles said. 

“If you take a look at their back, it’s like a table top, it’s full. You don’t want a Wagyu with a back where you can see the spine, you want them full of meat. They’re a bit like a couch potato at this point. It’s that final period of relaxing for them, eating as much and doing as much as you want.” 

The herd here are incredibly relaxed, stocky with glossy coats, chewing on cud and listening carefully to Charles as he spoke, almost like an attentive puppy would. It’s clear they’re loved and well looked after by Charles, his wife and his children. They all have names chosen by the kids, with ‘Curly’, a breeding heifer, acting almost like the family pet due to her sweet, loving nature.

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Content and relaxed cattle Image: Confidentials

Charles then took us down to the breeding field to meet Curly and her mates, including the massive bull responsible for producing the herd’s offspring, as well as Flat Iron’s Wagyu calves.

Charles is very proud of the herd he’s producing and, to ensure he’s breeding the best possible cattle for the job, he sees the body of every cow once stripped to see which has produced the best marbling. 

“I then know which mother and father produce the best genetics,” he said. 

There’s a real science to rearing this herd of Wagyu for Flat Iron. It’s a full time job, requiring a lot of attention, time, effort, money and care. And it's recognised in the quality cuts produced and served over in their restaurants. 

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Some of the breeding Wagyu Image: Confidentials

Eat the Flat Iron Herd

Stepping into Flat Iron Leeds, you’re met with the unmistakable waft of sizzling meat. That primal, animalistic urge to gorge on steak takes over and, thanks to the simplistic, constrained menu, there’s not an awful lot of deciding to do. 

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Outside Flat Iron Leeds Image: Confidentials

Fred treated us to a selection of the menu’s finest, including special cuts like bavette and T-bone, Flat Iron’s signature featherblade, Wagyu burgers beef dripping chips, creamed spinach, truffled macaroni cheese and crispy bone marrow garlic mash (this stuff had me in a chokehold - read about it as my Dish of the Month).

What’s more, diners are welcomed with a pot of beef fat salted popcorn and leave with a token for soft serve ice cream made with a salted French butter. You’ll certainly not be hungry after a trip to Flat Iron.

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Crispy one marrow garlic mash Image: Confidentials
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'Flat Iron' steak with a few slithers of bavette Image: Confidentials
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Creamed spinach Image: Confidentials
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Beef fat chips Image: Confidentials
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A beast of a steak from the specials menu Image: Confidentials
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Complimentary soft serve buttery ice cream Image: Confidentials
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Flat Iron Malbec Image: Confidentials
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Lime and mint fizz (non alcoholic) Image: Confidentials

Flat Iron Manchester

A rotating board of specials will be available at the new restaurant, including a Wagyu steak of the day, plus a Scottish ribeye - exclusive to Manchester. The restaurant will also have a bespoke charcoal grill for their beef specials, so guests can watch in eager anticipation as their meal is prepared.

As for drinks, a curated selection of wines will be available, including Flat Iron’s very own Malbec, produced by the team, using grapes grown in the Limoux area of the Languedoc in southern France. There’ll also be draft beers, cocktails and a selection of non-alcoholic beverages.

On the opening, Fred Smith said: “This restaurant has been a long time coming. But, you know what, it’s all been worth it - Covid, a grade II listed building, leaking pipes - the building is beautiful, the grill is ready and we can’t wait to open the doors.”

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A selection of food and drink from Flat Iron Image: Flat Iron

Flat Iron will open in Manchester on July 3rd, 2024. Follow @FlatIronSteak on Instagram to keep up to date with more information regarding the opening.

Flat Iron Manchester 200 Deansgate, M3 3NN

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