Hopscotch, the new kid on the block

The neighbourhood bar you’ll want to hang out in.

I first visited Hopscotch back in December, a few weeks after it opened. If I liked it then, it’s fair to say, I’m a little bit in love now.

For all that Brick Lane has changed in recent years and now offers more than just a curry, it still didn’t have what Hopscotch offers, until we got lucky and Jonathan Cowley happened upon the site at the top end of Brick Lane in mid 2016.

 Despite his youthful good looks, this isn’t Cowley’s first rodeo. In his own words, he’s been around the block. He has much experience from time spent at Chick’n’Sours, Milk and Honey, Street Feast and many more.

 Hopscotch might look small from the outside but it’s a veritable Narnia, with the Garden up front leading into the dining room and kitchen at the back, or head down stairs to the drinking den. Each space has a unique feel, light and airy, buzzy and fun, sexy and sultry. 


Cowley’s aim was quite simply to create somewhere to drink that wasn’t ‘wanky’. Seems like a good plan; it’s never on my list of must haves when I’m looking for somewhere to hang out.

 Back in December, I ate dinner with Tom after our Lyle’s lunch and we let Jonathan pick his favourites. The menu is short and simple, with small plates and buns on offer. We tried the Phi Phi Chicken and the pumpkin and goats cheese buns.

 The buns themselves were very good, I can’t tell you where they came from because Jonathan wouldn’t tell me, but they held up well, particularly with the very juicy chicken. The chicken was succulent and tender from the wood grill which you can smell the minute you enter. The satay was rich and indulgent.  

Tom, reluctantly, tasted the pumkin and goat’s cheese after I first tried it to see how strong the cheese was. This was very good and I never pick a non meat option. The pumpkin was sweet and smoky and the goat’s cheese complimented rather than overwhelmed. It won over a goat’s cheese hater but also satisfied me, a goat’s cheese lover.

 A papaya salad with mango and coconut was light and refreshing, the balance of heat was perfect.

 Squid with Chorizo was good but not amazing, the avocado base was just overripe and it benefitted a lot from some seasoning and a good squeeze of lemon.

 The same cannot be said of the octopus. This was my hero dish, perfectly cooked, charred and smoky from the grill, it was perfect. It also looked beautiful. 

 Like the menu, the wine list is short, pared back but quite brilliant; it’s clear some real thought has gone into this.

 While we didn’t have dessert, I loved the ‘over the road options’, in a nod to neighbours Dark Sugars and Crosstown Doughnuts.

 I missed out on the smoked eel which I am told is pretty special and sourced from a small producer who hand delivers it each week, it meant I had to go back. 

 

And so, today, I went back and had brunch.

We opted for the house smoked bacon, fried eggs and pickled chilli and the Cuban, a large bun stuffed with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles.

 The pork here is very good, the bacon was thick cut, juicy and sweet and smoky. The dish is really well balanced, both flavours and textures.

 The Cuban is literally packed with flavor, juicy pulled pork, sharp pickles, slightly sweet ham, lots and lots of cheese.

 I also had a Virgin Mary which was really spicy but not too hot, it was excellent.

 The only problem is I still haven’t tried the eel or for that matter the cocktails, looks like a third date is on the cards. It looks like this could develop into something long term!
On my first trip, our meal was generously but unexpectedly on the house. 

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