Eating Out: Top Blade is well worth your time and money if you like real steak – The Irish News

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Top Blade

St Anne’s Square



028 9033 3311

MAKE a dough out of flour and water. Leave to sit for a while, then knead under running water until you’re left with a sticky ball and the water running pretty clear. The sticky ball is wheat gluten and, if you pile a load of flavourings into it, steam or simmer until firm, then thickly slice and shape it, you’ve got a seitan steak.

Remove all external gristle from the top blade muscle of a cow, which sits at the top of the shoulder. Divide in two, cutting along the central seam of gristle, running the length of the muscle. Trim, cut into whatever size you fancy and you’ve got a flatiron steak.

Which (abridged and cribbed off the internet) process do you prefer? Does one turn your stomach, or trouble your ethics, or simply make you scratch your head?

It’s worth saying at this stage that Top Blade in St Anne’s Square in Belfast is well worth your time and money – but only if the second of those processes has you licking your chops. And you eat chops.

Arguing the rights and wrongs of meat-eating is, as I’ve stated before here, not on my agenda. But the notion that meat substitutes so beloved of the growing vegan palate among us should be treated with suspicion because of how “processed” they are deserves putting in its place.

They’re very different, but the paths to both a flatiron steak and a seitan steak are still both processes. One may seem more scientific than culinary, but take a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese, a glass of wine. Process plus science.

The Google required to find out how to make seitan also produced an internet cooing over just how much it “tastes EXACTLY like steak” and how “even my steak-loving friends couldn’t believe it was vegan”. Bullocks.

I ordered it out of a sense of morbid fascination, even though nothing has died to make this dinner. Except maybe hope. As it’s the first seitan steak I’ve eaten, I can’t say if it’s Top Blade’s fault that it was horrible. I very much doubt it. Their star attraction, that flatiron, is a superb piece of meat, superbly treated.

The seitan, something resembling not even shoe leather, but more a spongy insole you’ve crushed an Oxo cube into with your heel, is not.

The bowl of simply sauteed mushrooms that comes with it really exposes the folly of the whole exercise. A couple of big – dare I say it, meaty – flat mushrooms would provide so much closer to an umami-packed steak-ish experience than this thing. And it would just taste a lot better.

Back to that steak, a huge star turn and, at just a tenner before you add a £3 side and a £2 sauce, worth £15 of any omnivore’s money. The sides – as well as the mushrooms and chips there is rich creamed spinach and perfectly crunchy onion rings – are all beyond reproach, as is the pepper sauce and the extra skewer of just-cooked prawns.

The place is a bit hectic, though no doubt the demographic of the staff, all unfailingly bright, friendly and helpful, would describe it as ‘buzzing’. They’re ‘buzzing’ too, with the food coming out at breakneck speed, and although that means the table ends up heaving with plates, you don’t feel rushed.

Top Blade is inspired by Flat Iron, the London chain that brought high quality but huge value to a city where a steak dinner can have your bank manager on the phone, pleading with you to give that veganism craic a rattle.

Part of Flat Iron’s conceit is the brevity of the menu. Flatiron steaks, a few sides, a sauce or two. The odd special. Top Blade almost follows suit – there are fillets, ribeyes and burgers – stretching out to a few ‘light bites’ and desserts, but they really shouldn’t have bothered.

Mixed olives, cherry peppers with feta, chorizo-wrapped cheddar sticks and vegetable crisps feel like afterthoughts, and desserts are much the same. The only regular dessert on the menu, profiteroles, are filled with passable cream and served with a passable chocolate sauce and a better caramel one.

But no-one is coming to Top Blade for the desserts, or the starters, and certainly not the seitan. But they should come if they want a very good, very real, steak.


Three starters £10

Flatiron steak £10

Prawns £4

Seitan steak £10

Onion rings £3

Creamed spinach £3

Chips £3

Mushrooms £3

Pepper sauce £2

Signature sauce £2

Profiteroles £4.50

Caramel cube £4.50

Mango margarita £8

Mojito £8

Popstar martini £4

San Pellegrino orange £3

Total £82.50

Source: Thanks