Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blacklock, 21st March

So, it turns out Blacklock is not the kind of place to take your in-laws, not matter how much they might love meat. We waltzed in on a Saturday night at about 7:30 and got a table straight away. Had we left it much later that would have been more difficult but it didn’t get to queue-down-the-road territory, at least, not while we were there.

Their gimmick is simple – pay £20 ‘all-in’ and you get a selection of their canapes, an assortment of the different ‘chops’ they have that night on a plate and a side of your choice each. You can also choose to have one of the special chops if you want (written down the sides of the posts) but that could get pretty expensive.

So all four of us went all-in. We were brought four of each of the canapes (there are no starters). The dirty ham was a complete misnomer as there’s nothing dirty about it, but it was delicious – a very hammy bit of ham on a blob of I don’t know what but I could easily have eaten several. They were all delicious actually. Even the simple egg and anchovy was worthy of comment among us, and the blue cheese with pickles was fabulous. I’m still weaning myself onto blue cheese but I could easily have eaten all four of these myself.

Then came our plate of chops. I had wondered if it was really going to be as mountainous as everyone was making out and it was a decent showing. Stephen and I left completely stuffed but we probably ate more than our fair share as the in-laws are a bit fussy – if it had been just the two of us I dare say I would have had more than enough room for dessert and might have wished those canapes were a bit beefier too. In this instance, I still did have room for dessert but I was denied any because the in-laws were obviously keen to get the hell out of there. So I missed out on the famed cheesecake.

But anyway, what of the meat? Well, our server explained what we’d been given and advised us to chow on the beef rib first while it was piping hot – and don’t trouble yourself with a knife and fork! This was my favourite cut of the night – well grilled and seasoned, I had a good gnaw on the bones to make sure I got as much as I could. My least-liked cut was the pork belly rib which I thought tasted a bit too much like bacon. There were two types of lamb, which I couldn’t distinguish from each other (or maybe I just ended up eating the same thing twice) and a pork chop but I didn’t get a taste of that. Our sides were a grand success – a delicious half a sweet potato (a whole one might have been nice), a crunchy and light salad of heritage carrots, meat radish and some sort of seed and also some charred baby gem. All had more care and attention than you might expect of sides and this impressed me more than the meat feast itself!

The only thing I didn’t really like, was, strangely, the bread. All the chops sit on top of some bread which is meant to then soak up the meat juices. I felt like the bread may have been fried or something first as it was ever so greasy and I didn’t really like eating it. This is in contrast to the bread that sits underneath the grilled meats at Cirrik and which is one of the best bits of ordering it. 

We had chosen Blacklock because it was from people affiliated with Hawksmoor and we thought it might be a bit more ‘restauranty’ than your typical new Soho opening. But it wasn’t – it was total hipsterville with no frills d├ęcor and loud music. Which got louder at about 8 pm. I’m a pretty young and trendy person but even I prefer to be able to hear my companions without having to shout when I go out to eat. Or even to drink. (Especially when that music is uber-cheesy Kool and the Gang.) Loud music is for clubbing and late-night bars, otherwise it makes me suspect it’s used to mask a place’s lack of organic atmosphere.

Another thing I kept hearing about Blacklock was that it did cocktails for £5. I was very excited by this. Too excited. I should have known that for that price you would get a fraction of the size of a normal drink. This was literally the smallest cocktail I’ve ever been served. People shouldn’t say it is a cocktail for £5 – it is £5’s worth of cocktail. However, it was certainly strong (but then, without any room in that glass to add anything else, it was going to be!) and it tasted very nice.

So, I did like the food, but I’m not entirely convinced by the place. I’m just trying to picture if I’d be that tempted to return. If I had a hankering for some serious meat, I feel I’d be more likely to just go for a steak or a BBQ joint. Although the amount of food we had for £20 was more than decent, so this might make me head here rather than a steak house, or Flat Iron... I’m not sure. I think it’s definitely worth a visit once and would tick all the boxes if I had a meat-loving (younger) visitor I wanted to impress with London’s trendy restaurant scene but I'm not aching to go back myself. 

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