"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Is there anything more depressing than eating alone in a fast food restaurant ?

Well there are a couple of things that spring to mind. Eating in a fast food restaurant à deux "after the love has gone" is a pretty miserable experience. There was also that time when a co-worker at the adjoining urinal said “the porcelain’s a bit cold today” and I had no idea what he was talking about.

I'm not just talking about Mickey D-type depressing, either. The new wave of Burger joints (Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Hamburger Union and their like) all have that same pervading air of quiet desperation. It's eating as a form of penance rather than joy.

I must have been a very, very bad boy then - in some past life or even this one – to find myself in a poky new fast food joint, lighting set to miserable, eating Steak (alone again, naturally) in London’s fashionable Soho.

Cattle Grid W1 is the new offshoot of a chain that has branches located in those centres of gastronomic excellence Balham and (just shoot me now) Windsor. The concept – well, there just has to be one – is all about selling Steaks as fast food. This despite the fact that good STEAK IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE FAST FOOD.

There’s the usual mission statement drivel about the whys and wherefores of the operation but all you need to know is that you first secure your table, then go up to the counter and order. Then you have to pay. Before you’ve even eaten. Which in itself is bad enough but then you have the card machine prompting you to leave a tip. Now I may be a bit dim but even I think it’s a bit rum to ask for a service charge before I’ve had any service. Or food.

There’s no starters or nibbles so once you’ve ordered you go back to your table and sit there, twiddling your thumbs until your food arrives. The Steak, when it turned up (brought to the table, thank goodnes) was well-cooked, rare as requested, but failed to live up to all the meaningless guff on the menu (“ naturally reared…”, “British”). I’m just relieved they didn’t go on about “seasonal” or “local”. It tasted bereft of decent ageing and was a bit on the tough side (I really must get myself some new dentures). So far, so average. Its quality however, towered above the side dishes.

Chips, lazily made with skin-on potatoes, were not cooked to order and were tepid and unappetising. From their name I was expecting Onion Strings to be fine tendrils of allium in a tempura-like batter. What actually came was a bowl of sliced onion rings that had been smothered in batter and dumped into a fryer full of underheated oil. Really one of the nastiest things I’ve put in my mouth this year. Just beaten by…

…the foulest Béarnaise sauce I’ve ever had. And if you doubt the finely calibrated taste buds of Dos Hermanos then just look at the photo. Go on, just look at it.

There was no respite with the drinks either with an overpriced glass of rough New World Red doing a good job at removing the enamel on my teeth and a Kiwi Ale so insipid it made me think that beer should be left to the Master Brewers of Northern Europe and everybody else should stick to what they’re best at making: pissy lagers.

Despite the fact CG are cutting the overhead of waiting staff the prices still look pretty high to me for an express dining concept. My bone-in Sirloin was £16 and with all the other bits and bobs the bill was pushing £30 which will get you a much better Steak and Chips in a proper restaurant like Goodman or Quo Vadis which are only minutes away. I really can’t see the concept appealing to anyone bar the young and impressionable or the tin-mouthed in search of novelty. That’ll be most of Soho then.

As I believe HS once wrote, you can sometimes spend several hundred words wittering on about a place when it would be a lot quicker and more to the point to post a photo. In this case, you lucky people, you get both. I draw your attention to exhibit Number 10.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are plenty worse places than Balham for food in London...I still think Lamberts stands up pretty well as fantastic value for money (plus you're only a 10 minute walk to Chez Bruce)

On that note though my suspicions about Cattle Grid appear to be correct and I will not be visiting the Balham branch...

Monday, February 16, 2009 8:28:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we are rubbish at steaks and burgers and have to go to the USA to eat them.
Now that leaves pork, veal, lamb, venison in the 4 hooved meat sector.Lamb is rubbish in the USA.So that makes it 2-1 in their favour.Any views on pork, veal, venison?I don't include mutton as it is just grown-up lamb.I think DH loves the pork from Texas? Do we do any meat well?

Monday, February 16, 2009 9:48:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Even the name the cattle grid is deeply worrying.

Monday, February 16, 2009 10:15:00 am  
Blogger Browners said...

I tried the Balham one a while back and was underwhelmed

That bernaise sauce looks terrible at the Soho branch which is odd because it was actually pretty good in Balham. And we had hot chips. The star of the show were the onion rings.

Steaks were so-so. And lacked variety. Keen to try Goodmans instead.

Monday, February 16, 2009 11:09:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

walked past this a few weeks ago, thought it looked dire, but kept an open mind. Also thought "I'll wait until Dos hermanos go, they'll be there soon" Glad I did.

cheers for taking the bullet

Monday, February 16, 2009 12:46:00 pm  
Blogger Chris Pople said...

That Bernaise pic brings to mind a line from Blackadder:

"How did you manage to get so much custard from such a small cat?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 10:09:00 am  
Blogger Gregory said...

Nandos meets steakhouse .....

Fortunately my experience with the sides was a little better. IMO a steak at these prices could never live up to the hype !

so I went the ribs which were quite good (not Bodeans though)

Since when was a good steak ever cheap !

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:20:00 am  
Blogger Rory Maxwell said...

Let me tell you, things have not improved. Wish I'd read this a week ago.

Monday, March 01, 2010 9:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have dined as cattle grid many times, especially at windsor, and with all due respect to your opinion, the information that you have presented has nothing but a slandered spin on what the reastraunt really is. From my expeirences the Cattle Grid has nothing but fine food to offer, from the chips, wich are meant to have some of the potato skins left on, through the ribs wich are simpley delicious, to the stakes wich i beleive to be finely coocked and the burgers wich without doubt should be tried. There service is impecabale, and i fail to se any major downside to what i beleive to be a good reastraunt, and i would hope that you could apreciate what is good about any place of dining and not fixsate on the bad, but tat goes for any reatsraunt.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010 9:50:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

And again, but perhaps this time in English so we can all join in

Tuesday, November 09, 2010 1:39:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Tat goes for any reatsraunt indeed my anonymous chum, but especially for Cattle Grid Soho which I believe is no more.

Happy Eating


Tuesday, November 09, 2010 2:05:00 pm  

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