Get Hip MoFos...Get Mo Pho at HỘP


HỘP and its founder Paul Hopper are definitely going places.

We first heard about HỘP when Paul hosted a pop-up on Upper Street.
Now, HỘP has a permanent location at Broadgate Circle, to draw-in the City with a fast, furiously healthy and extraordinarily flavoursome Vietnamese eatery.

Conveniently located at 2 Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate, London EC2M 2PA.

( MAP )

HỘP is the newest venture to kick-start Broadgate Circle, rapidly becoming a magnet for the area's foodie action.

Let's start with the somewhat quirky name. Paul assures us it's entirely coincidental that his name is Hopper and he also happens to be a Hip Hop fan. Rather, the name 'HỘP' is the Vietnamese word for 'box' - essentially a Vietnamese style Bento box - and appetising hot boxes are one of the things HỘP specialises in.

Paul and his team's journey was an interesting one. His parents had a corporate hospitality business based in Hartlepool on England's North East coast and Paul grew-up around kitchens, literally stirring the soup. Paul worked in London as a specialist M&A City analyst for 6 years, where he was exposed to the sort of gourmet food enjoyed within the rarefied echelons of banking and corporate expense accounts. In addition to haute cuisine, he would visit a Vietnamese café in St Paul's for lunch, which had good food but where one was also doomed to queue for ages. Pretty soon after that Paul found he was spending most of his spare time and money on learning Asian cooking.  

Travelling to Indonesia in November 2012 Paul got diverted to Vietnam by a typhoon, where he encountered a deliciously memorable Pho in Saigon. Moving on to Hanoi, he tasted their Com Binh Dan street food, more accurately translated as 'working peoples food'. Paul had something of an epiphany, seeing the choice of dishes served buffet style from what was effectively someone's living room. Always served with rice, Com Binh Danh is hot and ready immediately for Hanoi's busy workers. The 'light bulb' moment occurred when he saw how quickly and conveniently workers could select 3 or 4 of the 10 or so dishes on offer, and either take them back to their desk or enjoy eating them communally. Paul felt sure that London's busy City community and commuters would appreciate and benefit if a similar offering was made available to them.

Impressed by how flavoursome the tasty food was, and how much variety was on offer; combining incredibly fresh ingredients with an extremely fast service, the seeds of a concept suitable for the inhabitants of the Square Mile were born. Fast forward to 2015, after more visits to Vietnam, plenty of hard work and planning; HỘP's first permanent site was born on Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate.

HỘP is Vietnamese for 'box' - whilst there's an excellent variety of superb hot meal boxes available here - which we'll look at in more detail in a moment - there is far more going on than just the hot boxes - we'd certainly advise against pigeon-holing this superb place or trying to put it in a box.

Being in the City of London, it's important that HỘP meets the breakfast demand just as much as lunch, and it certainly didn't let us down. In addition to the conventional European breakfast items of pastries - which freshly baked daily - HỘP also offers Vietnamese Congee, an eastern savoury porridge made from rice instead of oats and topped with a choice of Chinese sausage or bacon with crispy shallots. It's a dish that really sets one up for a "full steam ahead day" - in fact in the far east it's regarded somewhat like a daily boost for the soul, because it's so easy to digest yet packs bags of energy. Alongside patisserie and congee, HỘP's breakfast menu includes Banh Mi, which are freshly baked crusty baguettes filled with either omelette or bacon with fried eggs.

For many of us, coffee is an essential part of the day, and with so many different coffee shops and specialist coffee offerings on the market, one might be forgiven for presuming that HỘP may not have very much to offer on the coffee front. But, how very wrong indeed one would be to think that, because HỘP's coffee quite simply, blew us away!
Using only 100% Vietnamese Robusta from Vietnam's central region - the beans are dark roasted longer, to give a deeper flavour.

In addition to the standard Italian style coffees, HỘP offers Viet drip coffee and that's something we can't wait to have more of! The Viet drip system is placed over an individual glass and slowly drips away the coffee to make a strong cup, which produces something spectacular when combined with the somewhat nostalgic, traditionally used condensed milk. Before trying it, we would never have guessed it was quite so mind blowingly great - but trust us when we recommend you go out of your way and try this outrageously excellent coffee. It may just be London's best kept coffee secret - which is saying something because there's rather a lot of coffee competition in the capital!

One of the team members at HỘP calls it 'bullet proof' coffee and we certainly weren't going to argue with a man wearing a bright flowery uniform!

Coffee loyalty cards, this means we'll be back!
We're happy to dwell on HỘP's coffee somewhat longer - it really is that good! Vietnam is well known for having some excellent coffee but by anyone's standards this is spectacular. And the take-home Vietnamese coffee gift kits did not disappoint.

If you need your fix in between visits they have gift kits
HỘP's layout and interior have been carefully considered. The space is inviting and warm, with plenty of powerpoints for those busy workers who need to charge-up.

Vietnamese concept of ‘Com Binh Dan’ or ‘Working People Food’ rarely uses wheat, dairy or gluten; instead, rice, vegetables and protein are the main events - which is a sensible step in a healthy direction.

The design colour scheme includes curiously feminine florals (we're told it's typical of Vietnam) yet manages to be unfussy and pleasing.

Each of the signature dishes reflects the authentic flavour of their place of origin.
Depending on the weather, one can start with a Summer Roll like this one which has British ingredients of beetroot and mackerel.
Alternative options were BBQ pork and nashi pear was an ingenious marriage of crispy sweetness , and a duck and mango option which proved to be a hugely pleasing filling whilst remaining refreshingly easy on the wallet.

refreshing Summer rolls in various combinations

Moving on to the soup, this Beef Pho (Beef Pulled Brisket) Noodles in Broth allows you to add herbs to your taste, savoury and satisfying and just the way you like it - because some of us like more chillis than others.

The Hot Meal Box was simply delicious, well balanced and absolutely crammed full of fresh tastiness.

Snack pots of sticky rice include this example topped with coconut, peanuts spring onions and chilli.

Sweet tooth cravings are catered for with this delightful rice pudding with mango - take our word for it that this is a delicious and well balanced dish that made us smile with happiness!

HỘP has got the grab-'n'-go concept down to an artform, including the now legendary Banh Mi (filled baguettes with a French influence)

 A well stocked excellent choice of snacks

Pressed juices and drinks stand to attention waiting to be grabbed on the go

Sriracha2go keyrings, so one never has to be far from one's favourite hot sauce are a fun welcome jumble among the zen-like tidiness at HỘP

There's a takeaway service so someone can rush HỘP  to you and there's even online ordering - because the folk behind HỘP  truly understand the needs of busy City workers.

It's clear from meeting Paul that he has an excellent sense of humour. He says his favourite quote from a business leader is Steve Jobs' comment 'stay hungry; stay foolish', but anyone visiting HỘP would be far from foolish and highly unlikely to leave hungry!

We found HỘP to be so good it was almost 'un-banh-mi-lievable’ and we're delighted to recommend it. This is not some sort of boring formulaic offering - where so many lunch options are just a calorific yawnfest - HỘP is setting the bar high and manages the almost impossible sounding task of combining speed, value, healthy freshness and quality.

Altogether now... I said a Hip HỘP the hippie the hippie to the hip hip HỘP and you don't stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat!


You Might Also Like