Review: The Hop Inn

// Where: 7 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon //

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Sweet Potato Fries/Wedges

I had some sweet potatoes left over from my Carrot & Coriander Soup so the only thing left to do was make some bangin’ fries/wedges.

This recipe is so easy to do, I promise! They’ll take about 35/40 minutes in the oven at 200° – I use this time to get everything else into check, so it works splendidly for me.

You’ll need:

  • Sweet potatoes (quantity dependent on mouths to feed)
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Mixed herbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 baking tray

Onwards…

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  1. Pre-heat oven
  2. Wash the potatoes but leave the skins on
  3. Chop them up into strips (you’ll understand my fries vs wedges dilemma)
  4. Place into the mixing bowl and add the olive oil, paprika, mixed herbs and salt & pepper, and yeah, mix
  5. Whack them onto the baking tray (I tend to sprinkle a little extra of the seasoning on too) and get them in the oven
  6. Every now and then give them a shuffle, but when time’s up…
  7. Serve!

To be honest you can use whatever seasoning you fancy, but I will always recommend paprika on them!

What you should be left with is some nice crispy skins and soft sweet potato. BOOM!

Enjoy!

 

Homemade Chicken Kiev

For some reason I’ve always thought that making a chicken kiev was going to be way too complicated and time consuming. I was wrong.

I had store-bought kievs quite a lot growing up and I absolutely loved them. Needless to say, this led me to finally getting my act together and making my own.

My dad had an old recipe (when once upon a time he made his own) so I followed the guidelines.

Ingredients:

  1. 200g of butter, softened (I needed less)
  2. garlic cloves (I always use more than stated)
  3. free-range, boneless chicken breasts (I used 4)
  4. 100g plain flour
  5. 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
  6. fresh chopped parsley  & tarragon (or dried)
  7. 100g dried breadcrumbs (or make your own)
  8. salt and pepper
  9. paprika
  10. 2-3 tsp olive oil
  11. garlic granules (I found in the cupboard)
  12. mixed herbs (also found in the cupboard)

Side:

  1. Approximately 4 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1/4. They will take roughly 40 mins to boil, and then drain, mash with butter and milk until soft (I use more milk than butter)
  2. 1 large broccoli, cut and placed in pan to boil. This will take roughly 20 mins. Just make sure they have a nice crunch

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  2. The butter: soften (which takes a lot of elbow grease – essentially beating it until soft), add the seasoning and mix in together. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use
  3. The chicken breasts: use a small sharp knife to make a slit from top to bottom creating a pocket (slightly slanted) to insert the butter
  4. Put the butter into a piping bag (or make one from a freezer bag) and pipe into the pockets made in the chicken breasts. I’m not going to lie, fingers will need to be used.
  5. Mix the flour and more of the seasoning in a shallow bowl. Tip the beaten eggs into another shallow bowl, and the same with the breadcrumbs.
  6. The system: toss the the chicken into the flour first to coat, shake off the excess, then slide into the egg and turn until covered. Finally dip into the breadcrumbs until covered, and shake off any excess. Do this to each individual chicken breast
  7. Place chicken breasts on a plate, slit side down, and chill in the fridge to help firm the crumb coating
  8. While the chicken’s in the fridge, this is where you get your sides on (unless you’re a champ multi-tasker, but as this was my first time, I tackled it step by step). For a casual mid-week meal I’ve gone for mash potato and broccoli. Whatever you fancy! The chicken in the oven takes around 15 minutes, so time accordingly.
  9. Next, pour the oil into a frying pan. When it’s getting hot add the chicken breasts, cooking on each side until lightly golden brown. Now place the chicken on a tray and place in the oven for 15 minutes, but basically until they’re cooked all the way through.
  10. To serve, plate up the mash onto the plates. Place the broccoli and kiev alongside and pour over any garlic butter left in the pan over the dish.
  11. Add any additional seasoning, like salt and pepper and enjoy your better-than-store-bought kiev!

I’m a big believer in making a little more than you should. For instance, make one or two more kievs than necessary, and boom, whack them in the freezer and you have another day’s meal sorted.

As I mentioned earlier, I needed less butter than the original recipe stated, but that’s fine! In one of my older blogs A simple, and very effective, bolognese, I have a recipe for a, yes, bolognese and I simply used the remains of my garlic butter to make my own garlic bread to go on the side. Problem solved!