Balham is going from strength to strength. Whilst claims that Balham is the new Notting Hill might be a little bit premature... the area is definitely on the rise.
Aside from Gazette and at a push the Devonshire, you will struggle to find a decent steak in Balham. Until now.
It has filled the slightly awkward boots left by Raviolo - which didn't last very long. When you walk out of Balham station you are greeted with the sight of a large statue of a cow which makes you think you are in Milton Keynes... hardly the centre of the bovine universe.
Cattle Grid is essentially a steak version of the Gourmet Burget Kitchen. No table service. Utilitarian look and feel. Short new world wine list packed with bold reds. You get a choice of steaks - rib eye, sirloin or T bone, supplemented by two variations on piggy ribs or a burger. I admire the fact that the menu is so bare. I hate the way that some restaurants offer a billion options - Starbuck's is currently boasting that they have 80,000 different combinations of coffee. Fuck off and just give me a good espresso. Oh hang on... you can't.
... but I think I'd like to see some different cuts on the menu. Maybe a feather steak, or a hanger steak... or possibly a little bit of rump. Maybe, they'll do this once they've established themselves.
We ordered 2 rib eye steaks - medium rare. One arrived perfectly cooked but the other one was grey through the middle. Possibly we should have sent it back. The chips were good and we were delighted with the watercress salad. My bernaise sauce was a bit stingy - but then again I do regard steak eating as an excuse to eat bernaise sauce!
One of us had a very substantial burger which looked good. But strangely we weren't permitted to request how it was cooked. They insist on serving it medium well which is a bit odd. I love a juicy burger... but a meaty, cloying burger is less fun.
Our bottle of Argie Malbec was good value and was a perfect match for the steak... as it always is. And at well under £20 it was good value.
But the star of the show was without question the onion rings. Soft, sweet onions hid beneath a crisp, light batter. Stunning... if a little bit naughty.
We couldn't resist baked cheese cake which was served with very vanillery ice cream. Tremendous. We were really impressed.
Cattle Grid isn't the finished article. But it is an improvement on Raviolo... and will we're very pleased to have a steak restaurant in Balham. But the key question is... will we go back? I won't actively avoid it... but I reckon the steak is better at Gazette and Bodeans... plus they offer dishes that Cowie would like to tuck into too. So I have a feeling that I will return at some point... but it won't be a regular occurence. If you are going to concentrate just on serving steak... it has to knock your socks off.