Blacklock in Soho
Soho is a storied place. It’s hard to walk through its streets without stumbling upon memories of its characterful past. Set in what was once the cellar of a brothel, chop purveyor Blacklock fits right in. It’s a dark, moody cave of a place, run by a team previously associated with Hawksmoor. The wildly successful steak chain’s influence is all over Blacklock, who take the same no nonsense approach to dining. It’s all about the best cuts of meat, served without too much complication, relying on nothing more than flavour to carry them through. It’s a bold move, and one that could backfire spectacularly, but here it works. It really works.
The primary focus is on chops – every type you can imagine. Thin cutlets of lamb with crispy ribbons of fat, juicy cuts of pork loin that are shockingly moreish, beef short ribs that fall from the bone with sumptuous ease. It’s a decidedly carnivorous place, an almost primal orgy of tearing meat and and fat-greased lips. Sides fall by the wayside, feeling like compromise when you could be using that plate space for yet more chops.
So a Sunday roast from Blacklock is an interesting prospect. Many roasts might lean heavily on their meat, but the true appeal of the dish lies in its variety, in its smatterings of swede and cabbage, potatoes and puddings, in caramelised parsnips and lashings of gravy. The meat at Blacklock was destined to blow us away, but what of the rest?
We start with grilled bone marrow on sourdough, covered in a flurry of freshly grated horseradish. The tart sourdough, almost burnt with heavy hints of smoke, works beautifully with the marrow, adding depth to its fatty richness and stopping it from being overly indulgent. The horseradish cuts through it all, but without its usual acrid pungency. Normally this would be a negative, but here the lack of punch works, adding new elements to the dish without overpowering it as horseradish so often does.
Roast forerib of beef follows, packed with flavour and cooked a perfect medium rare. It’s stunningly tender, juicy and makes the serrated steak knives we’re using seem like complete overkill. You could cut this slab of beautifully cooked beef with a butter knife, if not a spoon. We’re delighted to find that our slight apprehensions about the rest of the dish are misplaced. Roots in gremolata are a revelation, a kick of citrus and parsley invigorating heritage carrots and pairing beautifully with the bone marrow gravy. The roast potatoes are impeccable, their crisp golden shells cracking to reveal fluffy clouds of white flesh, a perfect pair of textures. A huge Yorkshire pudding is pleasingly crisp, though not overly so, with a softer, fat soaked bottom. And finally, there’s sprouting broccoli, cooked with a little bite. As an overall dish, it’s sensational.
It’s chased by a white chocolate cheesecake, all velvety cream, thick chocolate curls and buttery base. Served with a dish of poached rhubarb, it’s simultaneously indulgent and surprisingly light. A nettle gimlet, very sweet but with a beautifully soft edge of lemon, is the perfect companion.
Best of all are the prices. Sides for £5 and under, the main roast for under £20, cocktails for £5. For the heart of Zone 1, where Soho meets Leicester Square, that’s a seriously good rate; with an excellent and equally reasonable wine list, there’s great value, as well as quality, to be found here.
British food has seen an incredible rise in standard and stature in the past few decades, sweeping aside a rather torrid reputation and reminding the world that this is a nation that truly loves its food. Blacklock is the kind of restaurant that will show you why. It’s God Save the Queen sung with a mouthful of steak and kidney pie, a veritable anthem of culinary patriotism. It’s bold, it’s brash, it’s unapologetically indelicate, and we loved every single minute of it.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
To book a table at Blacklock, The Basement, 24 Great Windmill Street, Soho, London W1D 7LG, call 020 3441 6996 or visit here.