Whenever I have the good fortune to visit London, I always arrange a re-union and select a pub that is easy for family and friends alike to get to. This pub is only minutes away from the major train stations of Blackfrairs / City Thameslink as well as being nearby to London Understation ("tube") stations. The central location is just one of the many highlights.
As an Australian, this is what you imagine a London pub to be. The ambiance and character of The Hoop and Grapes is indeed why enjoying pints in comfortable surrounds is a rite of passage and a joy to savour. If the landlord could move the entire pub to Sydney he would be a very busy man.
The landlord, Mike, deserves a special mention as he helped me arrange this re-union with professionalism and was eager to make sure it was a memorable day. He graciously offered us (and prepared) the private room on the second floor to accommodate the 40-50 people I had originally invited. Unfortunately, only a dozen people attended. This was rather disappointing, not to mention embarrassing, and I apologised profusely to Mike going as far as to show him the Facebook page for the invitations I had sent out. He was very understanding and brushed it all off whilst remarking that "These things happen, mate". Due to the low number of people that attended, we all decided to remain in the main bar downstairs and not create more work for the staff in cleaning up the private room after we had left it.
The staff also deserve a warm thank you. They were very attentive, friendly and happy to serve. Most of my uncles and cousins are creatures of habit when drinking beer and the staff ensured the pints were quickly refilled whenever they were minutes away from being empty (as per my request). The pints of Guinness at this establishment were easily the freshest I ever tasted during my time in England. My uncles, also lifelong Guinness drinkers, could not have agreed more. The pub also serves the traditional British style ales from Shepherd Neame and well as the modern lager choices such as Asahi.
I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what a pint cost here - the current strength of the Australian dollar making this trip to London the best value yet. Having said that, what I can honestly tell you is, I wasn't bothered about it. From memory generally around either side of £4 ($AUD 6) for a pint? Considering the friendly service and the fun my family and I were having, it was the last thing on my mind. Back home some pubs in Sydney are now charging £6 ($AUD 9) and up for a pint of Guinness so you can see why I wasn't keeping track of it.
The food we ate was great and very reasonably priced for London. Almost all of my family had the Steak and Ale pie after all collectively having sampled some of it while my back was turned! At £9.50 ($AUD 14.50), this was a very filling and tasty option. Due to the bulk of my pie being pilfered, I later enjoyed the homemade signature burger - The Smithfield Sizzler - superb.
So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation where you need to arrange a re-union at a London pub, please take my advice and make this your first choice. This has been the most memorable re-union of them all and I have Mike and his wonderful crew to thank for ensuring that.
Needless to say, the venue for the next London re-union has already been chosen.
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