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.

the-hopp3

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.

the-hop1

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.

the-hopp6

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.

 

Advertisements

Review: Cox and Baloney’s Tearoom & Bar

// Where: 182-184 Cheltenham Rd, Bristol //

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.

tea-room-6

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.

tea-room-3

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.

// Don’t be late for tea! //

Carrot & Coriander Soup

I am starting this week healthy (and hopefully it’ll end that way too…)

Carrot and coriander soup is a classic, and I’ve added a few of my personal favourites in this one!

I used:

  • Roughly 450g of carrots
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1-2 handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion
  • Garlic cloves (I used 3)
  • A pinch of salt & pepper, paprika, nutmeg & mixed herbs
  • Less than half a chilli (depending if you like the fire – add to your liking)
  • 1-2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1l vegetable stock
  • Blender (I use a hand one, but a processor works too)
  • 1 large saucepan
  • Some bread and butter on the side (optional)

 

CC Soup4.JPG

 

CC Soup2.JPG

 

Now:

  1. Get everything peeled and chopped (I crushed the garlic)
  2. Heat olive oil in pan
  3. Add the onion, and when slightly softened, add the chilli
  4. Get all the herbs in (don’t forget to stir away)
  5. Whack in the potato and garlic
  6. Get the kettle on and allow everything to soften on a low heat
  7. Once soft, add the carrots and stock, then bring to the boil
  8. When bubbling away, lower the heat and allow to simmer for around 20 mins with a lid on
  9. Every now and then give it all a stir
  10. Time’s up! Blend it all together to your preferred consistency
  11. Serve up, and enjoy!

As per usual I made a little extra, and that’s lunch sorted tomorrow!

Also if you prefer a thicker soup, then simply use less water.

Enjoy!

 

Simple, slutty bagel

I can rarely buy bagels because they just go, pretty much instantly. Needless to say, they won’t last the week. When I do dare to invest, here’s what I go for at lunch…

You will need:

  1. 1 red onion and chive bagel (I go for New York Bakery Co.)
  2. Spinach
  3. Ham
  4. Cheddar cheese

Simply:

  1. Cut the bagel in half, and grill on both sides until lightly toasted
  2. Put cheese on both of the slices, then whack under the grill until dripping
  3. Take the bagel out of the grill, onto a plate and put in the ham, then spinach
  4. Whack them together, NOM BEAUTIFUL

For a little difference, try mozzarella with ham, or change the ham for salami, and spinach for watercress. I personally don’t use butter but you’re more than welcome to if it so suits you.

Also try fiery chilli pesto on one slice and original hummus on the other, then do the same as said before, and whack in the salami and watercress (my personal favourite).

Enjoy!

Leek, potato & red onion soup

Vegetable soups are one of my favourite things to cook, particularly at this time of year. I find the process very therapeutic, especially when I’m feeling a bit worse for wear – so I surround myself with amazing fresh veg as my brain screams “I need a bowl of health!”

I used to live in Kingston-Upon-Thames and loved wondering round the market deciding what I was going to go for. I love the atmosphere of a food market, it’s so much better value for your money, and you’re supporting local businesses.

One of the things I love about soups is that you can make them from pretty much anything! This was great for me and my housemates during university when we were low on money. We’d pull what we had from our own cupboards and bung it all together in a pan.

For this soup I was in a similar situation to the latter. I went for: what I had in the cupboard…

What I found in the cupboard (this fed 3):

  1. 2 white potatoes
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 2 leeks
  4. garlic
  5. milk (I went for skimmed)
  6. dried parsley
  7. mixed dried herbs
  8. bouillon
  9. salt and pepper
  10. butter

What you need to do:

  1. chop the potatoes, onion, leeks and garlic (or crush the garlic)
  2. add a knob of butter to a saucepan and melt
  3. add all the chopped veg to the pan, making sure to cover them in the butter, then add the seasoning (trust your judgement and your palate)
  4. turn the heat on low, put a lid on the pan and allow veg to sweat for at least 15 minutes – occasionally give a stir and add a little more butter if the veg starts to stick to the bottom
  5. add boiling water (making sure it covers the contents and then at least an inch more) and 1tsp & 1/2 of bouillon
  6. keep on a low heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes
  7. add some glugs of milk (it depends how creamy you want it, and milk will help thicken) – I personally only use a little. Then stir
  8. allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes
  9. I have a hand-held processor, so I simply blend everything until it is nice and smooth
  10. serve, enjoy!

What you should be left with is a creamy consistency, with a slight acidity from the red onions and plenty or flavour! Tasty, and healthy, meals don’t have to be expensive or complicated to be amazing!

If your soup is thicker than you’d like, simply add some more water to the pan and give it another stir before serving. I personally like a thicker soup, particularly during the winter – it feels that bit more substantial and warming. But do blend to the consistency you prefer!