Lurgan’s Zara Peden has brought some genuinely fresh thinking onto the Belfast restaurant scene with a new Cathedral Quarter eatery dedicated to a single cut of beef…
Belfast diners certainly haven’t been starved for innovation of late as restaurateurs continue to strive for differentiation in an increasingly frenetic marketplace.
New experiences are still to be had, however, and thanks to the efforts of Lurgan business woman, Zara Peden (22), an age-old restaurant stalwart is now back on top of the menu.
Her new restaurant, Top Blade at St. Anne’s Square in Cathedral Quarter, focuses exclusively on a single cut of meat – the flat iron steak, also known as the ‘top blade’. The flat iron comes from the shoulder and the muscle and it’s a very tender and flavourful cut.
At Top Blade, flat irons are presented in a variety of imaginative ways by head chef, Rory Wallace.
Located in premises formerly occupied by Chopin bistro, Top Blade features bespoke tables and chairs and a muted, industrial colour scheme that gives the venue a modern, inner city feel.
Zara, who studied business management at Queen’s in Belfast, has a background in retail. She first viewed the premises at St. Anne’s Square around July and work began in August before an opening in October.
‘Cathedral Quarter is an up-and-coming place with a great vibe and it suits this type of restaurant where people like to get in, enjoy their food and get out to head on to somewhere else,’ adds Zara.
‘We had to take everything out basically and start from scratch. The only thing that we kept was the floor. We installed the bar, replaced the entire kitchen and put everything in brand new.”
Zara says that throughout the planning and in the run-up to the opening, her main concern was that customers wouldn’t understand the restaurant’s approach:
‘We’re based around this one cut of steak,’ she says. ‘We do get people coming in and saying, “Oh, we thought there would be more options,” and that’s fine, we understand that, but this is just a really simple concept. It’s a little like the Yard Bird in Belfast which only does chicken. That works really well for them.’
The flat iron cut is available at £10 with a selection of sides and sauces.
‘That’s another selling point,’ Zara told LCN. ‘Good steak doesn’t usually come that cheap and we can add prawns on a skewer across the top to give the dish a surf-n-turf feel.’
A single dessert is offered, which is currently profiteroles with dipping sauces. There is also a specials board which changes weekly and does offer an alternative dessert and some additional options for steak-lovers. Seitan steak is also on offer for vegetarians and vegans.
‘The top blade is always cooked rare to medium and sometimes people do ask for it to be well done, but we just explain the situation to them and direct them towards our specials board,’ says Zara. ‘Everyone has been really surprised by the prices and the standard and quality of the food, that’s becoming one of our main selling points, I think.”
Zara says that in the weeks since the restaurant opened in October, the business has performed above her initial expectations:
‘We are completely booked out most Saturday nights and we are now coming up to the Christmas party season, so we’re already preparing for that,’ she adds. ‘We are also looking towards January, we want to be known for doing things that are a bit different, couples night perhaps, things like that. There’s also a lot of student accommodation being built in this area now and that is something that we’re going to be focused on going forward.”
Zara also indicated that she is already considering opening another restaurant specialising in flat iron steaks, probably in Belfast.
‘This has gone very well for us so far, I couldn’t be happier,’ she added.
On the Menu…
TOP BLADE STEAK: 8oz flat iron, £10
Add prawns to make it surf & turf, £4
SEITAN STEAK made in-house and suitable for vegetarians & vegans, £10
Skin on fries, £2.50
Sweet potato fries, £2.50
Buttery Belfast champ, £3
Today’s market vegetables, £2.50
Profiteroles with dipping sauces, £4.50
Add any hot drink, £2
Also, the specials board will change weekly.