If I’ve spoken to you or seen you in the last week or so, I will have definitely told you about this incredible newly opened restaurant in Soho, Hoppers. It’s one of the new ventures by the JKS Group, the geniuses behind some well known London restaurants right now, such as Gymkhana, Lyles and Bao.
Hoppers serves some delicious Sri Lankan food, which I only realised was missing from my life afterwards. I’m putting it out there… this place is the new Dishoom for me. The food really does speak for itself. It’s different from any other Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to and the main items are reasonably priced in my opinion.
I was meeting a friend for lunch and we managed to get there at 12pm and get a good table. Looking at the menu, we were spoilt for choice. This was because everything sounded so different and interesting and we couldn’t decide what to order – we wanted it all! Our waitress was ever so patient with us and helped explain the concept. It was also great that they provided a glossary at the bottom of the menu, which I think is becoming a much needed necessity in restaurants these days. I usually end up googling half the items when I have no idea what something is.
I started with their seasonal juice, which happened to be the papaya and coconut on the day and I really liked it. We also ordered a few small plates to try whilst we waited. First up was the Cashew, Cassava & Ash Plantain Fry, which came with a rather yummy, smokey chutney. These certainly had a spicy kick to them, but with the chutney, it was very moreish like crisps.
From the little that I do know about Sri Lankan food, I know Idli and Dosa’s are a huge deal, so naturally this was something I wanted to try here. One of the waiters explained how to eat the green vegetable you see in the sauce (the Sambhar) below… it turns out you don’t actually eat the whole thing. Because the outer layer is tough, you’re meant to scrape the soft centre out as you would with, for example, bone marrow. I was intrigued by the smoky Podi topping on the Idli, but I didn’t think it was necessarily something to shout about. But I’m glad I got to try it.
One of my absolute favourite finds was the Lamb Kothu Roti. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. I first came across Kothu at Kerb, where one of the street food traders (Kothu Kothu) was selling this one dish. It’s chopped up roti, shredded vegetables, egg/meat with the perfect combination of spices, usually cooked on a hot metal griddle. I had only managed to try a chicken version before, but this lamb kothu roti blew my mind – it was so delicious. I don’t think the photo does the flavour justice. I could easily go back just for another bowl of this.
Next came the Podi Dosa. This is a crepe made using fermented lentil and rice, and it envelopes a spicy powder mix as opposed to the plain dosa, which I didn’t think was spicy at all. We ordered the chutneys to go with it so we had something to dip it in. I think they’re pretty generous with the sauces, and it made me wish I had ordered another dosa to mop it all up.
However, I’m glad I didn’t order another one, because then came the Egg Hopper. This is a pancake made using fermented rice and coconut milk and it’s shaped like a bowl – I want to see how they do this! Ripping pieces of the hopper and dipping it in the chutneys and sauces… this was perfection to me. It had a different texture than the dosa, which meant it soaked up all the delicious sauces, along with the soft red onion and the dry coconut mix.
We decided to order one of their kari’s (i.e. a curry) and I’m really glad I went for the fish option because the mackerel was cooked really well and ever so tasty. I usually can’t imagine eating curry without rice as it was such a staple in my household growing up, but this really changed my mind.
I honestly have been raving about Hoppers to anyone who will listen, and I’m worried it will become so popular that I won’t be able to go back any time soon. I’m sure people will be talking about it just as much as they talk about Dishoom, and the queues will be out of the door just like Bao. The staff were really friendly and helpful, and one thing that I loved about them was that they brought us a cold bottle of tap water when we’d finished ours without us even having to ask. I know this seems so minor, but little things like this seriously make a big impression on me.
We were too stuffed to order dessert or anything else at this point, but there’s still so much more I want to try. So here’s hoping I can get my Hopper and Dosa fix again very soon and try the sweet stuff too!