Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Anyone who knows me knows that for me, going out to eat is a gamble. Never more so than when my incredibly, irritatingly picky husband is with me. We live in an area of Berkshire where there are no decent restaurants to speak of, so we rarely eat out, not even for a snack. Whenever we DO (gulp, deep breath) decide to eat out, it really pisses us both off when the food we're served is crap. When I say crap, I mean "This cost a third of our weekly grocery budget and I wouldn't serve it to my dog." A couple of my local pubs (peel a freakin' carrot, change your fryer oil more than once year, cook a potato all the way through!?) fall into this catagory, as did my first Indian takeaway from a local place (coughAmir in Binfieldcough) that had come recommended.
I don't think that we have extremely HIGH standards, it's just that we know what CAN be done with simple ingredients, so if it's your job, why not do it properly? Why hire cooks who take absolutely no pride in what they're serving?
That's why, when we walked into Cattle Grid in Windsor for lunch today, our expectations were no higher than usual.
Cattle Grid is conveniently situated in Royal Windsor Station, just a stone's throw from the castle and seems to be popular among the local professional men, as there were quite a few posh suits munching away this lunch time. We grabbed a table for two near the door and were quickly greeted by a busy but friendly waitress who apologized for being "on her own today".
Not that it mattered, because our order was taken in a timely manner, even though customers continued to flow through the door and the "order up!" bell chimed away in the background.
The restaurant itself is of a moderate size- I'd guess to seat 40?- and has an open kitchen, where we could see two well-groomed, concentrating young men making the food. I didn't notice any music, which is a plus in my book and the decor was butch in a dark wood and steel furniture way, but comfy and clean.
The menu is unapologetically carnivourous, which shouldn't be a surprise, given the name. They have a modest, yet decent selection of steaks, burgers and ribs, none of which would break the (even my!) bank and some lovely looking sides and salads.
We were both in the mood for a burger, mine with beetroot and goats'cheese and Hubby's with brie and caramelized onions (yum, right!?) accompanied by a tidy but not OTT pile of hand-cut chips.
While waiting for our food, my glass of Temperanillo and Hubby's cider arrived and we watched plate after plate of food be delivered to other tables, making me think several times "oooh! That looks good, I should have ordered that!" The hog roast sandwich in particular looked fantastic, and I decided there and then that we were coming back for that in the not-too-distant future.
My wine was rather disappointing, and tasted like the bottle had been left open since yesterday, but Hubby's cider was apparently crisp and refreshing.
Our burgers arrived in good time and were just as attractive as the rest of the food we'd been ogling. The goats' cheese melting on top of mine was just creamy enough with not too strong a flavour and the beet was roasted, not pickled (gold star). The burger was good-vet-could-cure-it-rare, just how I'd ordered it, of really nice quality beef and on a robust herb bap. My only complaint, was that the whole lot could have been a liiiittle more seasoned, as the salad veg and beets were a little on the bland side but this was easy enough to remedy with the condiments on the table. The hand cut fries were every bit as crunchy outside and delightfully fluffy as any I've had and made me wish I could finish them.
We were in and out within an hour and for the two of us including one glass of wine, one bottle of decent cider and tip we spent £30. Granted, not the cheapest lunch you'll have, but well worth the price when you consider what else is on offer on the high street.
This Cattle Grid location has been open for just over a year, while the Balham and Clapham locations have been open for two years and six weeks respectively. It would be nice to see more locations, as long as they're able to maintain the quality of the food and the feel of their restaurants at the price point.
We will definitely be back (only I'll order a whole bottle of wine this time) and in jeans with considerably more stretch than the ones I was wearing today.