PRIVATE MEMBERS CLUB SOHO
Blacks is one of the oldest private members' clubs in Britain, originally built in 1732 by Christopher Wren's apprentice, former home of Charles Fortnum of Fortnum & Mason, and incorporated as a supper club by Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Joshua Reynolds. It's part and parcel with London history, particularly that of the arts. In 1992 it began to take its current form, named Blacks in response to the famous White's club, where many of its members had ostensibly been blackballed, or otherwise were considered black sheep. It wasn't long until it became known for its louche, bohemian clientele, who were after a space as debauched as it was dignified.
In 2014 it was restored to its original heritage - as a supper club. These days it retains its libertine spirit whilst exuding pure class. Situated in a Georgian townhouse on Dean Street, the private club is secreted behind a black door. Upon entering, you'll be greeted by a receptionist and asked to sign your name into a register.
The premises are spread over three floors with an abundance of nooks, crannies and alcoves. On the ground floor you'll find the Club Room and Bar, a dark and cosy den that is perfect for unwinding. During a Friday night it was the perfect alternative to a bar packed to the rafters with weekend drinkers. We were comfortably sat on chesterfields around a candlelit round wooden table, the dark woods were calming to the eyes, the walls adorned with paintings of philosophers (artwork changes quarterly, along with the selection of wines). Being a dog-friendly outfit, there were plenty of canines accompanying us for preprandials. It's an excellent snug little space.
The Den is located in the basement, and like the basements in many clubs, things tend to get a little loose down here in the late hours of the evening. Finally, upstairs on the first floor you'll find the restaurant, which is a whisper lighter than the other rooms with natural light coming in through large bay windows. You get the feeling that a lot of lunches here have lasted well into the evening.
During our visit we were duly impressed with the work that head chef Matthew Dryden, who formerly worked as sous chef at Dabbous, had put into the kitchens. We settled down with a couple glass of excellent natural wine from the Barossa Valley in Australia, a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre produced by Tom Shobbrook, which paired well with most of the dishes.
We commenced our meal with big, juicy, succulent prawns served with lemon, parsley and garlic butter. Lamb shoulder cooked low and slow with grilled onions served on a bed of fregola was homey and sumptuous, a great dish to fend off the winter chill. We were also rather smitten by the sides, particularly the cauliflower cheese and the sweet potato fries. Dessert was rather excellent: a dark chocolate ganache was topped with a sea salt crumble, vanilla ice cream and malt syrup.