London steakhouse Blacklock is coming to Manchester... here's what to expect

Mountains of meat, cheesecake worth raving about and gravy that's fit for the north...

By Lucy Holt | 24 June 2024

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Mention the name Blacklock in London, and chances are you’ll be met with misty-eyed tales of their steak sandwich or urgently implored to try their white chocolate cheesecake. In the worst case, you might be drooled upon.

In Manchester, they’re yet to establish similarly fanatical brand recognition. Founder Gordon Ker wants to change that when he opens his first chop and steakhouse outside London – their sixth over all – in Autumn 2024. 

Ker founded Blacklock in 2013. A lawyer in a previous life, he found the legal world to be unfulfilling, and so performed a screeching career U-turn to become a waiter at category-defining steakhouse Hawksmoor. As you do.

Before long, Blacklock’s first restaurant was opened in a basement in Soho. Back then, things were a bit more rough and ready. The unit on Great Windmill Street had previously been a strip club, the furniture was literally industrial (rather than just aesthetically so), and the menu was almost exclusively chops.

There was one desert on the menu, and a notable food critic was appalled about the lack of chips. Perhaps rightly so.

What’s the deal with chops?

The chophouse as a concept actually predates the steakhouse. Originating in the 1690s in London, the idea was that these cheaper cuts of meat could be served quickly and cheaply to local workers. While it’d be a stretch to say that Blacklock has stayed entirely faithful to the utilitarian origins of the chophouse, there’s a lot on the menu that offers value you can’t really sniff at (£8 cocktails, a Denver cut steak for £15), and the lunch menu is served speedily for reliable lunch hour sustenance. 

In the years since Ker opened, the Blacklock experience has become noticeably more refined. Sparsely decorated basements have become mahogany lined with green leather banquettes and mid-century orb lighting. Dark and dingy has become dark and moody.

Some incongruities remain – there’s a predisposition for quirky quotations written on chalkboards, and the music is exclusively an 80s pop playlist, inspired by Ker’s love affair with New York bistro Dirty French in the Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side.

You get the impression that some things in Blacklock are the way they are just because the owners wanted them to be like that, rather than part of some grand conceptual plan. For instance, the butchers they use – Phillip Warren and Son – are based in Cornwall. That just happens to be where they think the best meat comes from. And because of that, that’s where they source their beer from as well.

Harvester House Blacklock
Harvester House on Peter Street, Manchester. The location of Blacklock’s sixth basement restaurant.

Blacklock are in seriously good company

When Blacklock Manchester opens on Peter Street in Autumn 2024, it’ll be in good company. There’s Hawskmoor just up the road. And then there’s the long-awaited Flat Iron, soon set to open just up Deansgate. A triangulation of London-founded steakhouses with mass appeal. So will they stand out?

Their USP is the process of blacklocking itself, which uses heavy cast iron skillets to press down the meat, searing the outside perfectly, and leaving the inside a perfect pink. Sure, it could be a gimmick, but you can’t deny the meat and steaks are cooked phenomenally well. 

Blacklock Manchester diners can expect a menu considerably more fleshed out than the early days. Alongside all the chop action there are starters like spicy pig’s head, ribs which fall off the bone, a crayfish cocktail or a zesty tomato and ricotta on toast.

There are also ‘pre-chop bites’ – little amuse bouches of almost mediaeval flavour combinations (egg and anchovy, for instance). For mains, sharing platters of pork chops and rump cap can be served ‘all in’, meaning piled high on a sharing platter at the bottom of which you’ll find wedges of flatbread which have been patiently soaking up all the juices.

If everything gets too Henry VIII, you’re not too far away from some greenery or a fresh chimichurri-esque green sauce. 

The white chocolate cheesecake. One of two desert options at Blacklock Manchester, served in ‘unlimited’ quantities.

What can you expect from the menu?

Veg-wise, there’s a small but perfectly formed offering of sides including a broccoli walnut salad and a blackened sweet potato that’s been roasted in ash, from which you pry out the fluffy, steaming innards. And there’s other scorched veg too – barbecued baby gems in anchovy dripping. (One of Ker’s guiding principles is that ‘everything’s better with an anchovy on it’.) And yes, they do chips now. Big, fluffy, triple cooked ones done in beef dripping. 

The cocktail menu in comparison is delicate. Seasonal spritzes don’t come in fluorescent oranges and yellows, but in muted shades of amber, rose and white. House creations include the Usual Suspects (a chilli tequila-based drink that’s an even punchier version of a spicy marg) and an entirely clarified piña colada which looks disconcertingly like a glass of iced water. 

Raising the steaks around Deansgate

In comparison to Hawksmoor, the vibe at Blacklock is more communal, a bit rowdier. There’s lots of movement. The food comes out served on specially-sourced mismatched floral crockery, and gravy – generous quantities of the stuff – comes in ornate pewter boats.

When it comes to dessert, you can have a big slab of apple crumble or generous servings of that signature white chocolate cheesecake, which is served with a ‘say when’ policy. If you’re on a big table, they might just leave you the whole dish.

Fifteen of the Blacklock team are relocating to Manchester to open the new place – a testament to the appeal of the city as both a foodie destination, and a serious alternative to London as a place to live. On their website Blacklock say that they have ‘serious industry crushes’ on the likes of cocktail bars Speak in Code and Schofield’s, future neighbours when they open on Peter Street. Obviously, we can’t blame them.

We predict chop-laden evenings followed by exceptional cocktails in the ever-improving Deansgate food scene in the imminent future.

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