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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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.

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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.

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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! //

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!