Bargain West End grilled meat
The idea of a restaurant that serves just chops sounds startlingly modern, but it’s actually quite an old idea. London used to be covered in chophouses – restaurants that, from the late 17th century to the end of the 19th, catered exclusively to men and plied them with booze and cuts of meat. Blacklock, apparently set up by some ex-Hawksmoor staff, revives that old idea but is open to everyone – irrespective of your gonads. Its clubby, underground venue, all exposed surfaces and dim lighting, is apparently a former strip club which is fitting for Soho. The retro 80s soundtrack is well-chosen and not too loud, while service was friendly, efficient and ridiculously good-looking to boot.
Although you can order your beef, pork, lamb and veal chops from the menu a la carte, the best value deal is definitely the ‘All In’. As long as there are two or more of you, then £20 per person gets you a big plate of assorted chops (around four per person), a snack-sized starter and a side dish. It sounds too good to be true. But it is.
First things first
Snaggletooth was even more excited about the chops at Blacklock than I was. My personal favourite was the lamb cutlet – crisp on the outside, yet rare on the inside with a deep reddish-purple colour and plenty of moist earthy flavour. The lamb t-bone was very similar to the cutlet, but with less meat and more gristle. It was still enjoyable though, as was the lamb neck. It wasn’t as earthy as the cutlet, but still pleasingly crisp and moist. The pork belly was unsurprisingly fatty with a noticeable woodiness to it. The only disappointment in our pile of meat was, unsurprisingly, the pork loin. Like chicken breast, it’s one of the least interesting cuts of meat around.
Just as important as the chops are the strips of flatbread sitting underneath it all. Soaking up all the meat juices, they taste like they’ve been fried in beef dripping. The only mistake here is that they appear to be topped with a strong hint of garlic butter which really isn’t necessary.
All of the snack-sized starters arrive as a trio of topped crackers. The cheese and pickle variant used stilton, but this was drowned out by both the tart pickles and malty cracker. The egg and anchovy was better. Although there wasn’t enough of the scrambled egg to leave much of an impression, the little anchovies were powerfully, deliciously salty.
The sides were no afterthought. The soft and fluffy sweet potato had a smoky punch which complimented its sweetness surprisingly well. Woody parmesan was an ideal companion for the leafy, wrinkly kale.
There’s only ever one dessert available. On this occasion, it was a white chocolate cheesecake with your portion doled out of a giant baking tray by your table. The cheesecake itself doesn’t quite live up to this theatricality though – the biscuit base was too loose for my liking, while the soft pillowy mass was a little too wispy. The cheap tang of the white chocolate wasn’t terribly endearing either. It was still enjoyably scoffable though, especially when taken with the tart, squidgy cubes of rhubarb served on the side.
Going back for seconds
The sheer quality of Blacklock’s chops lured me back for a second helping. Although the promised veal porterhouse still wasn’t available, this was no hardship as it meant I had another chance to gulp down the All In – this time with the help of Baron Greenback. The tottering heap of chops was almost identical to the way it was before – the same selection of quality lamb and pork cooked simply and well. The only minor variation was that the chops had a little more seasoning this time around, but the additional salt wasn’t excessive.
The anchovy and egg starter was just as evocatively salty as it was before. The filthy ham starter appeared to be San Daniele ham paired with lardo di colonnata, the fatty unctuousness of the latter emphasising the creamy streaks of fat in the former.
Blacklock is a no-go zone for vegetarians when it comes to the mains, but the kitchen can rustle up some damn fine vegetable-based sides and there wasn’t a single duffer amongst the lot I tried. The combination of shaved carrots and watermelon radishes was tart, crisp and refreshing – a perfect counterpoint to the relative heaviness of the chops. Although there was precious little of the promised Stilton in the mixture of courgettes and chicory, its absence was barely felt. Buttery courgettes beautifully herbed contrasted wonderfully with the taut, bitter chicory leaves. Splendid stuff.
Baron Greenback opted out of the white chocolate cheesecake, which merely left more for me. For better and for worse, it was just the same as it was before.
Despite the occasional weak link here and there, I can’t find any serious fault with Blacklock. High quality chops cooked with such consistent skill at such low prices makes eating at Blacklock an absolute steal. The only real snag is that Blacklock doesn’t take reservations, which means I’ll be racing you to the front of the queue. Stay out of my way.
What to order: Basically Everything.
What to avoid: Maybe the cheesecake, if you’re having dessert elsewhere.
Address: 24 Great Windmill Street, Soho, London W1D 7LG
Phone: none listed
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday noon-23.30. Sunday noon – ‘sold out’.
Reservations: not taken.
Average cost for one person including soft drinks and service charge when shared between two: £30 approx.