Let’s face it, any mention of a ‘whisky bar’ and your average punter is going to expect an old-school, cigar-laden, stuffy and most-likely unwelcoming place to drink. But as is the rise of important discussions around social mobility and tackling the inequalities in our society, the bar industry are doing their bit with new, approachable drinking holes too – designed for all. Black Rock is the latest to hit our city, promising an unpretentious place of solitude for all types of whisky drinker, whether they be a pro or a novice.
The Venue & Atmosphere
Hidden below the streets of Moorgate is this beautifully dinky, low-lit drinking den. As soon as the door shuts behind you, you are sucked into a warm hug of hospitality and whisky. The pièce de résistance has to be the huge, cut in half oak tree-cum-table that runs the full length of the bar, flanked by 18 chairs (…but I’ll get back to this later on). There are also four higher tables that surround the far wall, and on the other wall are four cabinets filled with over 250 whiskies. All in all, they are not seating anymore than 35 people in the whole bar at any point.
This is no stuffy gentleman’s club either. On a rainy Wednesday night the venue was filled with 20/30 somethings - both men and women - a couple of groups of friends on catch ups, a few (what I presumed to be) date nights and quite a regular flow in-and-out. The atmosphere is clearly led by who is in the bar, but the hum of chat and laughter and the smell of whisky definitely hit the right note for me.
The atmosphere is also helped along by the enthusiastic, encyclopedic-brains of the two guys running the show that night…engaging us in the whiskies, explaining the history and heritage, and answering ANY question you may have. Their love of this beautiful drink really is infectious.
Black Rock is a whisky bar. They serve a lot of whisky. Does this mean if you really don’t like whisky you shouldn’t experience it? Definitely not. They have a menu of very accessible cocktails and beers too. For the whisky drinkers or even the “I really want to get into whisky” drinkers amongst you, Black Rock really is a paradise. The cabinets are labelled in accordance with tasting notes (eg. ‘Sweet’, ‘Spicy’ etc…) and then ‘Heavy’, up high, and down to ‘Light’. It’s like an adult candy shop where you can go hunting for your perfect whisky and enjoy a pick’n’mix with a difference.
The team there encourage you to get up, interact with the cabinets, pick up the bottles and ask them questions…it’s all part of the experience. If you are a seasoned whisky drinker already then find your regular tipple and give the ones around it a go; you may just unearth a new favourite. I discovered three new blends I’d never heard of before, one of which was made in Taiwan – somewhere I’d never initially suspect to find this sort of thing. Pricing is reasonable from £7-£11 for a dram (35ml) and clearly marked on the bottle so you don’t get stung at the end of the night. It’s a great way to try that expensive Japanese whisky without committing to the bottle price. The tables come fitted with brass water taps to add that dash of “threat” to your drink and to clear your palate in between drams too.
Now, back to the oak tree-table. Ingeniously this is fitted with two channels down the middle. One channel houses Black Rock’s own whisky blend and the other a beautiful whisky cocktail…ageing as it sits there in the oak tree. A table that is also ageing the whisky within it. (Basically, if you’re thinking of buying me a ridiculously expensive gift for Christmas this year, this would be great).
Hungry? There are also whisky/Scottish-based nibbles around the £7 mark ranging from veggie haggis balls to scotch eggs.
Times are changing and though some people’s attitudes aren’t, thanks to Black Rock, the whole notion of whisky and whisky bars has been altered. Approachable, interactive, informative, fun, mixed crowds and the buzz of laughter makes this the only whisky bar you need in your life. I can’t speak more highly of the team on the night, making this feel like a “friendly boozer” rather than a stuffy whisky den.
Love whisky? Want to love whisky? Know someone that loves whisky? Black Rock is a must.