It was key fam.
Unless specifically looking for an edgy Soho Chop House, you certainly wouldn't notice Blacklock amongst its neighbouring establishments. Finding it is like locating a sliver of unsullied glass between a brick-a-brack of neon and grime. In the heart of the theatre district and two doors down from the gaudy Windmill International strip club, Blacklock is neat as a pin, and screams Fika rather than flatiron steak. At first glance, it could be the entrance to a nordic spa: through the door and two windows one can see nothing but a dimly-lit hallway bearing a few stylish house plants, and a glimpse of a staircase - the architecture more residential than that of a hot London eatery. The only indicator that it is in fact a restaurant, is the gaggle of young Asians in Yeezy's who enter and then disappointedly walk back out a few moments later. (Two sure signs of hype in London: fresh-dressed Asians, and restaurants so edgy that they turn even fresh-dressed Asians away).
For those unaware, Blacklock (founded by three former employee's of the renowned Hawksmoor chain) is a restaurant dedicated entirely to chops and situated in an old Soho brothel. We arrived at 7pm, and weren't seated until 9:15pm - but this, we had prepared for. (Lewis had dined here a couple of times before and knew the drill). We left a phone number with the maître-d', and headed around the corner to Mr Fogg's Tavern for an aperitif. Mr Fogg's Soho is split into two floors: The Tavern and The Gin Parlour (which is a reservations-only private sitting room serving the finest G&Ts in London). We tanned* a few negroni's at the Tavern before bumping into the manager who found us a cosy sofa upstairs in the Parlour (Lewis is a designer at the head office of the brand that own this venue), where we were brought two iced goblets of VII Hills (his own brand of Italian gin) with tonic. It was beautifully crisp and herbal - perfect served over their signature hand-cut ice cubes, but I was getting hungry - so we polished them off and made our way back to Blacklock to dine.
Blacklock's basement (where the actual restaurant is situated) is a stark contrast to the hygge you encounter at the top of the stairs: as you descend the staircase you are immersed into a loud, dark pit of fantastic smells and electrifying ambience. The decor is simple: white brick walls, dark wood tables, and four central pillars which act as blackboards with the day's specials scrawled across them. There is no background music and minimal light; instead, roaring conversation and wafts of barbecued chops drift in and out of your ears and nostrils, creating an atmosphere in which you at once feel both safe and dangerous.
We were seated right next to the open kitchen, where a brassy waitress appeared almost immediately at the table to explain the menu. We were recommended the 'All-In' deal which, at £20 per head, offered a selection of 'pre-chop' amuse-bouche to start, followed by Blacklock's signature skinny chops to share with sides. Instantly enticed, we ordered this with a carafe of Albariño. The appetisers arrived promptly and consisted of three delicious options: egg mayo + anchovy, stilton + pickle and pig's head + kimchee; the egg being my favourite. The bites were delicately put together, resulting in such harmonious flavours: amuse-bouche that does exactly as it says on the tin. We had a short wait before the main event was brought to the table (in three stages due to the volume of food). First came each of the sides we had selected: parmesan kale and beef dripping chips, which were swiftly followed by the skinny chops (a mountain of tender pork, lamb and beef chops emitting a scent that could turn a hardcore vegan carnivorous) - the waiter explained that underneath the chops was a piece of rosemary flatbread soaking up the juices, which was to be eaten at the end - that's if we could actually make a dent in the mass of meat atop.
Prior to digging into this glutinous fare, I remained adamant that the best chop house in the UK was Linlithgow's Champany Inn - I now stand corrected. The chops were cooked to perfection, the fat melting in one's mouth like butter. The beef-dripping chips need not an explanation - they were are as good as they sound - but the kale! It was citrusy, tangy and a welcome accompaniment to the rich flavour of the meat. Kale is something I've never really gotten down with - it is a fad favoured by the millennial basic bitch, and is something I normally skim past on a menu - for in my mind, it is chewy, scratchy and tasteless. I was surprised when Lewis (a man who rotates between chilli, burgers, and pizza for dinner) suggested it - but I'm glad he did, for again, I stand corrected. Blacklock do millennial cabbage just as well as they do meat. The true highlight for me, however, was the rosemary flatbread. Albeit forced into an already full stomach, it was the perfect conclusion to our dinner: a juicy reminder of every meaty, salty, garlicky note of flavour sampled in the meal.
With my only gripe being the ruthless-yet-professional waitress (who turned her back and left the table mid-conversation once the bill was paid), I can safely vouch for not only the immersive experience Blacklock offers, but the reasonably-priced and incredibly high-quality food they have on their swanky little menu.
*Tan - a very Scottish way of saying one downed one's drink.