The other week, we met up with our old next door neighbours, who had recently moved to Stock, for a lovely end-of-the-week pub dinner. There are so many pubs in Stock, Ingatestone and the surrounding villages and to be honest, they are all very good – but we decided upon The Hoop on this occasion. Growing up, it’s somewhere we’d sometimes go to for lunch in the summer, as there’s a beer garden. I think the last time I went, my dad took me for lunch – back in the post-uni/pre-job days. I couldn’t really remember it though.
The Hoop is such a traditional country pub with low ceilings, timber framework, brick fireplace (perfect in winter) and that typical ‘pub’ smell and atmosphere. There is a restaurant, with a la carte menu, where you can reserve a table; but we sat in the bar, where you can just turn up and hopefully grab a table! Luckily, Lettie and Karl arrived earlier and managed to secure a corner table for the five of us.
I’m not too sure how much the menu differs in the Oakroom Restaurant, although I know it is a la carte, as opposed to a ‘bar menu’. Where we sat, there was a specials board, but on the whole, it’s all traditional and hearty pub grub – think pies; grills; ham, egg & chips; scampi... you get the jist! Additionally, Monday night is ‘Curry Night’ and the website also promotes a ‘BYO Wine’ night and a Taster Menu... both of which are up my street, although I’m not sure about the former on a work night!
Despite being a Thursday, it was busy in the bar, with locals drinking, as well as plenty of couples and groups of friends sat, dining. That said, it wasn’t overly loud and we didn’t feel like our conversation was being interrupted – which was good, as we all had so much to catch up on: the house, Robert’s new job and my plans. We ordered drinks as soon as we arrived and were settled at the table. Mum, Lettie and I shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was crisp, nicely chilled and went down far too easily – almost before the food even arrived!
And on to the food... Lettie and Karl ordered the Pie of the Day, which was on the Specials board – I couldn’t tell you what was in it, as there were also pies on the main menu, but it was a reasonable size. Mum chose the beer battered cod, on a bed of mushy peas and served with a large side portion of chunky chips. I definitely think I’d order that next time – the fish looked of good quality and there was just the right amount of peas to accompany it. Following on from a recommendation from one of Robert’s friends (who also lives locally), we both opted for The Hoop’s take on a classic Toad in the Hole. The Toad in the Hoop was absolutely huge and I don’t think the photos of it really do it any justice at all! There were three large sausages in the mounds of cooked batter and the dish even came with a side of mashed potato (which I barely touched... although it was silky smooth and seasoned well). The onion gravy was beautifully rich and thick, but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough of it. Needless to say, we both struggled; however, Robert’s attempt was more valiant than mine! Understandably, none of us had room for dessert, which was a shame as there was plenty of choice.
For a midweek night out, The Hoop made a lovely change – the prices were reasonable, as well as the food and service (although we did have to go to the bar to order and pay, which is fairly normal for a pub). There’s no doubt I’ll be returning soon, even if it’s for a light lunch once it gets a bit warmer!
Love, Lucy xx