With new restaurants, bars and pubs opening in the city at an incredible rate there are only a few ways a new player stands out from the crowd. Rather than follow trends or try to be brash and loud, London export, local hospitality expert and now co-owner of Hop & Pickle, Neal Orpin, says the key is simplicity and good old-fashioned hospitality. “Quite simply we’re about great service, great food, great drinks; nothing more, nothing less,” he declares. “The Hop is about bringing together classic English pub hospitality and culture and mixing it with the creativity and vibrancy of Brisbane.”
But can a Brit really deliver the ultimate Brisbane pub? It would be hard to find someone more suited to the challenge than Neal, whose work and travel has immersed him in both high-end hospitality and the Australian way of life. After starting out in a restaurant at 16 he would go on to work at London’s Fuller’s Brewery, then manage a flagship fine wine store in Bishop’s Gate before leaving the UK for California. After meeting an Aussie girl working in London who would eventually become his wife, Neal’s travels took him to Australia. “I travelled around,” Neal reminisces, “worked in some clubs in Kings Cross, Perth, and Cairns. I did six months as a jackaroo out near Longreach mustering on motorbikes and fencing. I came back to Brisbane about seven years ago.”
While Neal has made his mark on Brisbane as the man behind the scenes of some of our favourite bars, including The Cru Bar + Cellar and Sixes & Sevens, it is the city that has made an impression on the Brit. “I particularly like the fact that it’s fresh and it’s evolving,” Neal notes “but it has a really deep heritage, from the sort of classic quintessential Queensland pubs through to iconic steakhouse and seafood restaurants. What I like about the food and beverage industry in Brisbane is that it’s growing in such a fast but professional way. The calibre of venues opening are world-class.” Consulting to several Brisbane venues and regional hotels in Darwin and Bundaberg, he felt something was missing – a place to call his own. The idea of the Hop & Pickle had been brewing for a while, especially so once he joined forces with Boucher Bistro owner Peter Carter, one of Brisbane’s favourite chefs.
Peter’s menu offers genuine pub gastronomy, serving up Asian glazed pork belly with cucumber relish, buffalo beef brisket with blue cheese dip, or braised octopus with romesco sauce – and that’s just the bar snacks. The focus on freshness means affordable weekday mains, changing daily, while Saturday will honour pub classics from around the world, leaving Sunday all about the roast. Pubs, after all, are as much about the drinks list as the quality of the hot chips. “On a hot summer’s day you can’t go past a nice cold pint. A cold pint is where it’s at,” Neal claims, no doubt reflecting on a Brisbane summer. “You’ll find me on the big communal table with friends having drinks, and enjoying the Queensland lifestyle.”
The Hop & Pickle
Little Stanley Street, South Brisbane
07 3217 2652
Photographers: Marc Casolani and Phil Winton