From those clever folk at Whistling Shop down the road comes Black Rock, a laid-back, low-key whisky bar with a couple of twists – the main one being the enormous 18ft oak tree table that runs the length of the room and has two glass-topped channels of whisky permanently running through it. The other being that there’s no bar in sight – just a trolley with some bartending equipment on, a no-frills storage room barely concealed by a curtain, and cabinets all around the room displaying the whiskies on offer. A simple labelling system efficiently lets you know how much a dram will set you back.
But let’s get back to that oak tree. Firstly, golden water taps spring out of the table in all the right places, allowing you to keep yourself, and if need be your whisky, hydrated. Secondly, there are little stoppers all along the tree that you can remove to have a nose of the booze that flows within. Brilliant. On my visit, one channel was reserved for their “Table Dram”, a house blend that is taking on character from the French limousin oak lining, and the other was “Cherry River”, a blend of rye, morello cherry, and spices, sitting in charred American oak. To top it all off, you watch as they pour it straight out of the table from the two whisky taps. WHISKY TAPS.
Alongside all the drams, they have a ten-strong menu of whisky-focused cocktails, some beers, and a few small plates (baked oysters, haggis balls and the like). The cocktails are split into lighter highball options (such as the 40 Shades with Powers pot still whiskey, fresh apple, and fennel pollen), and stronger, let’s say “booze-forward” options. I can vouch for the finely balanced Nae-grain-i (Haig Club, Suze, Cocchi, lemon oil) and the transportive Campfire that employs Bulleit, Lagavulin Whisky and a peat smoked & vacuumed marshmallow!
Most importantly though, every time I visit, the service is nothing short of superb – a clear sign that Thomas Aske & Tristan Stephenson of the Fluid Movement are involved. Bartender Thom Solberg (a recent winner of a Rebel Yell Bourbon comp) is the unsung hero of Black Rock, gliding around the room keeping everyone happy without breaking a sweat. It’s hospitality like this that stops 18ft oak tree tables and East London minimalism from becoming gimmicks, and allows the quirky features to blend in to the background of what is in my opinion the bar of 2016 to beat.
Black Rock – blackrock.bar
9 Christopher Street, EC2A 2BS