Acre Lane leading into Clapham Park Road has always been mostly marooned between the twin citadels of Brixton and Clapham. I literally and metaphorically live equidistant between the two, ‘Clapham Borders’ (ouch) according to the estate agents. The more conventional Clapham and the oh-so-new-poppy-uppy-sub-hipster Brixton have only slightly blurred into Acre Lane, and with the demise of Upstairs, here has been something approaching a culinary cul-de-sac. Only partially rectified by Boqueria.
But something is stirring. The Coach and Horses has had a promising gastro/craft beer makeover and alongside a busy tattooists, where a series of eateries have glumly previously opened, stumbled, grumbled and vanished in a blink of an eye, we now have Knife, bringing simple, unpretentious modern steakhouse dining to my doorstep. Destination dining that is worth the (mini) trip from either citadel.
It’s a nice boutique space, simply laid out with standard modern dining room notes – the exposed brickwork, hip filament lighting, industrial-esque tables, template styling with a few funky neon twists. Launched by Chef Patron Andrew Bradford, who has done his time under the wings of Jason Atherton and The Gingerman’s Andrew Mckenzie alongside co-director Matt Wells (The Dairy, Paradise Garage), Knife is more or less all about the homage to quality beef. Yes, they do, and I could, talk about sustainable, ethical produce but in the end (my) taste buds are fascist and ethics are something I studied at Uni.
Starting with an intravenous Steakhouse green peppercorn and tarragon Martini (£9) from a dinky, innovative cocktail list, while there are nods to fish, other animals and the vegetarian diner, Knife is clearly the friend of the beef loving carnivore. That’ll be me. Our cocktails were kept company by light, fluffy mini-Yorkshires and a beefy dipping gravy as an amuse bouche before starters of (my) Galloway beef tartare, nasturtium leaves, blackberries and apple (£7) and Pan Seared squid with mushroom, Jerusalem artichoke and kale (£6.5). I am a huge tartare fan and Knife’s rendition is excellent, clean flavoured raw beef with interesting textured infusions of fruit. And we liked the offbeat pairing of tender squid and it’s veggie bedfellows. Once again, there are surprising little flourishes to enjoy.
From the selection of cuts, I chose Short horn rump (£18) and beef dripping chips (£3.50) and Mrs B the Knife Burger, more gastro than ‘dirty’ with ground bavette, rump, bone marrow and Gruyere (£10.50). My rump was exceptional, substantial deeply flavoured, perfectly cooked… with great chips (and I do not say that lightly). As you would hope and expect, they absolutely know what they are doing with their prime offering. Mrs B’s naked burger (minus the brioche casing), possibly because of the embedded bone marrow was exactly what a burger should be, and what some of its dirty hipster cousins in the ‘village’ could take heed of. Both would be fine for a ‘wallet-friendly’ supper without the cocktails, the starters (although I recommend mine to tartare virgins and lotharios alike) or even the carafe of Bodegas Santa Ana Argentinian Malbec (£16.50).
The staff and kitchen are clearly genuinely engaged in what they are doing, with confident cooking and minor nods to current trends without veering off into pastiche pointlessness. If I want that I can go to Pop. Knife is accessible, elegantly presented, affordable, quality dining with a friendly face and is well worth the ‘trip’ up Acre Lane or down Clapham Park Road. And if you want a top quality steak with all the trimmings on our local patch, it’s pretty much essential.