It’s a casual Sunday afternoon in Swindon, and to my surprise, a lovely one at that. After two cups of coffee and some light reading, I left Darkroom Espresso, met a friend, and we made our way up Victoria Rd.
Unfortunately Swindon town venues do not often accommodate these rare sunny afternoons – it’s difficult to find a harmonious balance between outdoor space and character in this area. Nevertheless, it’s the last day of the weekend – I want a cold beer and a bite to eat.
For Old Town, The Hop Inn introduces something more unique and unobtrusive compared to most of the residents on Wood Street. The majority of the bars in this area pride themselves on 2-4-1 cocktails, however this progressive nook on Devizes Rd offers a versatile range of craft ales and lager.
The bar itself may be small but it does not lack character or an impressive display of beverages. Much like a snug, there is a charming cabin quality embodied by the log fire, exposed brick wall, and wooden bar. In contrast to this rustic feel, the restricted space has been opened by light pastel colours, large windows, and minimal wall art -it’s cosy, but not cramped.
If you’re too spoilt for choice, or unfamiliar with the products, talk to the bartenders. Friendly, and knowledgeable, the staff are happy to recommend and explain the drinks menu. Whether you’re after something fruity, light, hoppy, or uncomplicated, the staff will always find something that’s right for you and your tastebuds.
Having heard about the Hop’s new stone-baked additions, I found myself without hesitation pursuing their modest menu of freshly made pizzas.
We go for no.9, Prosciutto: parma ham, parmesan, tomato, mozzarella, rocket, and balsamic glaze. The pizzas have few toppings, however they do not lack quality or fantastic flavour – simplistic, and understated, the chef is straightforward and resouceful with his culinary skills. A few slices in and the maker himself approaches us for the verdict. Mouths full, we earnestly attempt to convey our satisfaction, and as he should be, he is pleased- as pizzas go, this stone baked treat is light, fresh and tasty.
When visiting The Hop, especially at the weekend, do be advised that seating space is limited, and for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, Swindon has plenty of pubs and bars to visit, however if you’re not after a Carlsberg, Stella, or Kopparberg, The Hop accommodates Swindon’s niche market for those who appreciate and have a thirst for interesting and unique beverages. All the same, if you’re not an ale or beer drinker, you are not without options – there is an extensive range of wines, ciders, whiskey and gin on offer.
Unlike ordinary pub chains, this venue is distinct and understated – the owners have done well here to combine honest intentions with contemporary demands. Whether it’s a casual brunch or a cushty evening out, The Hop is the place to migrate to this coming winter.
It was my friend’s birthday last week and having just moved to Bristol she fancied doing something a little different. Being the first of our friendship circle to turn 25, she opened the gateway elegantly with afternoon tea and prosecco at Cox and Baloney’s Tearoom & Bar.
What appeared at first to be a small cake shop on Cheltenham Road in Bristol, transformed into a marvellous restaurant filled with ladies lunching. Vintage, with modern touches, the venue boasts a variety of mix-match trinkets, crockery and furniture – all eagerly anticipating admiration from their guests.
The menu offers a selection of lunch time treats which are perfect for groups of all sizes. Most of the girls opt for Lily’s Afternoon Tea with a glass of Prosecco (£22.50) and they are delighted to be presented with an elegant stand displaying a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones. Moreover, despite the back room hosting 3 large tea parties (including a hen do), the attention to detail does not falter.
I myself, not a fan of scones, go for a salmon and cream cheese sandwich which is handsomely displayed in triangles and accompanied by crisps and a side salad (£4.50). The rest of the sandwiches on the menu maintain a British continuity from beef and horseradish, to somerset brie and cranberry sauce.
The staff, attentive and accommodating, frequent the tables to replenish and offer drinks – they’re informative but not overbearing which generates a homely atmosphere. As expected, Cox and Baloney’s offer a wide range of tea from your Grandma’s classic to something more fruity and herbal.
Tearoom & Bar indeed, this venue transcends from day into night effortlessly – although only visiting for lunch, I am completely captivated by the rest of the menu which offers a range of cocktails, wine and chic sharing platters. I will certainly be returning to try out their mixed platter of local meats and cheeses, as well as the tea-infused gin cocktails. Furthermore I am equally intrigued by their breakfast and brunch menu which, much like the decor, is humble and quaint.
After not a lot of thought, I decided to treat myself to a trip away for my Birthday. I’d been to Berlin and 3 days isn’t long enough for Toronto, so flights and hostel booked, I was off to Copenhagen.
Travelling solo can be quite daunting, so I invested in a little pocket guide to Copenhagen which enabled me to create a brief itinerary of a few sights and venues I wanted to visit. Not being much of a planner I felt as though I had already achieved something. With this in mind, it’s also a good idea to bring light entertainment- for me this is Patti Smith’s M Train.
Copenhagen has a great City vibe – it’s the perfect combination of energetic and cool. Upon arrival, the station is located smack in the middle right amongst Tivoli and conveniently a 5 minute walk from Urban House Hostel (£90.00 x3 nights in an all female dorm).
The next three days are long and filled accordingly. I leave plenty of time to wonder and explore while also managing to check off various coffee shops and top sights.
The main aspect of Copenhagen’s coffee houses that I completely ate up is that you will find no conglomerates here. Each unique, casual and modest in their own way – Copenhagen displays it’s creativity through it’s ever versatile caffeine scene.
My tops picks:
Sort Kaffe & Vinyl
Appropriately situated in Vesterbro, this limited-in-scale cafe has a big personality. Vinyl plasters the right hand wall all the way down to the three tables tucked away at the back. Peruse the generous selection of records, enjoy fruity/velvety coffee, and if you can grab a seat outside, take in the charismatic aroma that introduces the Meatpacking District.
2. Coffee Collective
Unlike the exterior, Nørrebro’s residents prefer a more simple yet effective approach to hospitality. I feel like I’ve just walked into someone’s kitchen, who also happens to have a coffee roaster. Almost basking it its own modesty, the coffee is not shy of precision or high quality roasting which oddly complements the nonchalant attitude of the baristas.
3. Le Coin
Slightly agitated by the city centre, I settle down in Vingårdsstræde. Much to my despair, I’ve just missed my window for salmon, avocado and eggs on toast, but I am equally curious about what the chef is freshly prepping for lunch. Perfectly located for any romantic, Le Coin lets me enjoy a coffee in the city quietly with Patti.
Worth your while:
On your bike!
At my hostel I got my baby blue at 90 DKK for 6 hours – no regrets. Also the rumours are true: everyone cycles in Copenhagen, and why not? The cycle lanes are nearly as wide as the roads. Cycling really is the best and most time efficient way to experience this City. What’s more is that the Danish have outdone the Borris bikes with built-in sat nav.
2. Christiania aka: Green Light District
Yep, have fun, don’t run, and no photos. Oh, and beware of Dragons… If not to buy hash, it’s worth exploring this Freetown on the outskirts of Copenhagen hosting pop up-stands, music, and masked men. I took a stroll around the lake and was mesmerised by the craftsman ship of the residents’ houses amongst the verges.
Right outside Christiania, I am welcomed back to reality by a peaceful and picturesque Christianshavn. Aside from the neighbouring Freetown, there are not many attractions in this area, and I’m glad. Bars on both land and water quietly entertain their guests down the canal as I stop for a coffee and admire the view.
4. Cafe Wilder
After a long day of exploring, I set myself up outside at Cafe Wilder. Shortly after, the rain came and so did my decision to gorge on white wine and Moules Marinières. Clichéd, perhaps, but this French-Italian styled restaurant immersed itself perfectly amongst the cobbled streets which lead the way to the best wine bars in Christianshavn.
5. Hay House
Located in the shopping district of Strøget on the 2nd and 3rd floor, you will find interior inspiration galore. Top to bottom in Scandic-sheek it was hard to accept that a shop had managed to upstage my entire home. Hay House shows off a beautifully balanced showroom of modern and authentic Danish design.
6. The Rundetårn
Originally built as an astronomical observatory, The Round Tower currently boasts one of the best views of Copenhagen from up high. It has also been refurbished with a cafe, exhibition space, and gallery displaying original features and artefacts. All this can be seen for a reasonable sum of 25 DKK.
7. The Meatpacking District
Quietly across the North Sea, Copenhagen-ers aren’t wearing clogs or spinning yarn, they’re taking over old warehouses and marts, filling them with exciting new eateries, bars, music venues and art galleries. Also known as Meat City, this district is the epitome of Copenhagen cool exerted by its vibrant and charismatic atmosphere.
When in Meat City, go to Warpigs. Part-American/part-Danish, this alternative and soulful venue caters for those who want Mikkeller beer excellence and no nonsense tender meat cuts. If schools had separate “cool canteens” here would be the founder – alternative and edgy, this is a beautifully executed collaboration from across seas.
Mikkeller beer, like it’s reputation, exceeds itself through impeccable taste and a-game brewing. With at least 20 craft beers on tap there’s much enjoyment to be had, but alas, having just come from Warpigs I had to pass on the too-temping bar snack menu. Pricey, yes. Worth it? Of course.
10. Friends & Brgrs
Yes, Copenhagen does junk food (kind of). I was so impressed with this burger joint and what I could only assume is Denmark’s take on Five Guys. Feel free to observe the staff in their pristine kitchen, and watch as they grind the meat and make the bread buns. So fresh and incredibly tasty – hands down, the best “dirty burger” I’ve ever had.
Another reason to get on your bike – Nørrebro. Instantly vibrant, this district invites you to dine at it’s indie restaurants, chill outside of it’s cool cafes and enjoy it’s multicultural neighbourhood filled with thrift shops and flea markets. Amongst the hustle also lies the cemetery Assistens Kirkegård, the gardens of which restores serenity to this district
Would I go again?
Copenhagen is the kind of city I could see myself living in for a while – it’s animated and enigmatic, but also tranquil and harmonious. From three days of exploring, I couldn’t help but notice how this understated city bargained with both the locals and the tourists. Still growing as a capital, Copenhagen only proceeds in introducing more and more economy and culture to Denmark – I can honestly say that I got more than I was expecting from the experience.
My trick? Researching certainly helped, but maybe that’s just me. Regardless, it was this prior knowledge that allowed me to travel with ease as I had a vague idea of where I was going and what to do when I got there. I was pleasantly surprised at what the city had to offer as I contemplated my next move throughout the days, whether this was a cafe or bar, or museum or landmark.
Whether travelling alone, with a companion or in a group, there is plenty of options for accommodation both modest and luxurious. With the latter in mind, the city is also very versatile as it provides fine and indie dining, cocktails and craft beer, as well as pop up stands and hot spot tourist attractions.
You don’t need to embrace Copenhagen for too long, so it’s perfect for a mini break (and completely worth it). However, if you’re looking for a longer get away, there are also some wonderful sites located on the outskirts such as Louisiana – you could even venture to Sweden via train for a few days.
// My trip to Copenhagen was the perfect gift for me, from me //