Braddon has a new playground and the name Hopscotch immediately brings to mind a sense of fun and whimsy. The first thought that came to my mind when I heard of the name was playing actual Hopscotch but according to the Hopscotch website they are all about hops + scotch + wood-fire wizardry. Now that’s certainly a little different!
My Hopscotching date and I went in for a mid week drink and dinner and the experience was fantastic. As you enter through the gate there’s a large beer garden with plenty of tables and in a corner stands a full spit roast set up; not something one gets to see every day at an inner city bar. The stage is set for “Pig on the Spit Sundays” so this could very well become the place to be come Sunday afternoon.
The first thing that I thought as I entered the bar was that it was huge! The second thing noted was that acoustics were excellent and conducive to carrying on a conversation. I hope this wasn’t just a Wednesday night thing and the music levels stay this way because nothing makes me want to run out of a bar faster than having to yell at my drinking buddies to be heard.
The bar on the right hand side is large and very well stocked from the looks of things; more on that later. A special mention must go to the service which was attentive and extremely friendly. And the wait staff were very smartly decked out in their gingham shirts might I add.
Inside the decor is industrial with a little bit of fun and splashes of colour thrown in via stenciled prints all around the bar. It’s a very open space too; there are lots of low tables with stools as you enter, plenty of high tables with bar stools in the centre of the room and a series of spacious booths on the other side. I had a good chat with Brian Smith, one of the owners of Hopscotch, and from what I recall the bar is licensed for 300 people (inside and out) so that should give you an idea of the space.
Another standout feature is the wall covered in advertisement prints from previous businesses that used to call 5 Lonsdale Street home; definitely a conversation starter.
Let’s talk about this wood-fire wizardry for a minute. Hopscotch’s prized possession is an Argentine wood-fire grill that had been imported form Northern California. It’s designed to cook meats over red hot coals and they use a mixture of iron bark and red gum to give the meats a light smoke flavour. It certainly makes for am impressive sight!
The menu has a lot of wood-fire wizardry as promised and items include a 400 gram rib eye steak with sides ($36), twice-cooked pork brisket ($27), Korean BBQ pork bulgogi ($27), Chermoula chicken skewers ($26), Lamb back strap with sides ($28) and a Jamaican jerk chicken with sides ($27). It was great to get a look at the grill doing it’s thing with the staff continuously monitoring the meat.
Then there are items offered “between bread” and served with shoe string fries and garlic mayo; lamb souva ($18), jerk chicken ($17), falafel souva ($17) and American beef burger ($18).
Just to make sure there’s something for everyone the “usual suspects” are also there; sirloin steak, chicken schnitzel, chicken parmigiana and fish and chips (prices range from $22-$26). There are also a handful of sides, salads and bar snacks on offer such as buffalo wings, spiced calamari and wood fired crab and corn quesadillas.
So the food menu is certainly interesting, reasonably priced and has a very gastropub feel. We must talk about the hop and scotch aspect as well but this is where my expertise ends as I’m neither a beer or a whiskey drinker. According to The Canberra Times review, Hopsotch has launched with three beers on tap that you can’t get anywhere else in Canberra (a Pikes Clare Valley, Illawara Brewing Company pale ale and Endeavour Brewers Reserve). The whiskey list sounds extensive with 50 names in it so if a good scotch is your drop, Hopscotch could very well become your favourite hang out.
We decided to share two dishes beginning with something from the Argentine grill; Korean BBQ pork bulgogi with kimchi slaw, pickled ginger and spring onions ($27).
This was mouth-wateringly delicious. The pork was incredibly succulent, not fatty at all and it had the most delectable caramelised BBQ glaze. The tang of the kimchi slaw and the spiciness of the pickled ginger was the perfect match for the pork. I honestly can’t recommend this dish highly enough. Go to Hopscotch and eat this stat.
The Jamaican Jerk chicken burger with BBQ vegetables, provolone and chipotle ranch in a white butter bun ($17) was another sensation. Having had authentic Jerk chicken in Jamaica few years ago, I found this chicken to be lacking the big spice hit but it was still full of flavour and the chicken was incredibly juicy. The grilled eggplant and capsicum were wonderfully tender and worked a treat with the chipotle ranch sauce. After having this burger I’m convinced that grilled eggplant should be a standard in all burgers!
For the sake of research we decided we needed to have dessert before we called it a night (ok, who am I kidding, there was never a chance of NOT having dessert)! Dessert choices consist of pavlova, brownie, butterscotch mousse and Frugii salted butter caramel ice cream.
The chocolate brownie with ice cream and chocolate ganache ($14) was everything a good brownie should be; decadent, warm, gooey and crunchy with extra indulgence of the ice cream and the ganache satisfying even the most dedicated sweet tooth.
So the verdict: Hopscotch is on to a most excellent start as far I’m concerned. The food was exceptional and the service and the vibe were fantastic. I am aware that I have not reviewed the hop or the scotch aspects of the bar but I feel that’s best left to the experts. I have no doubt come the weekend this place will be packed to the brims and deservingly so. If you are a group of six or more they do take bookings but Brian wants to encourage walk-in customers so fear not, they are only taking a certain number of bookings each night so drop in for a drink and make sure you try something from the Argentine grill.