I have been dying to try Hoppers since it opened for many reasons: Gymkhana is one of my top five favourite restaurants in London and Hoppers is owned by the same group. Also, Hoppers serves Sri Lankan food which I had never tried, but as we are going there for Christmas and New Year, I wanted to see what we were in for…
I joined my friend, Colin Tu, who owns Salvation in Noodles (review on the best Vietnamese in London) and his partner, as well as Chris Prowler, who is a Hoppers veteran and had been there twice already. We all got there before the doors opened at noon to make sure that we would get a seat, and were joined by others who were also waiting eagerly.
The service was friendly and efficient, but unobtrusive and helpful. They educated us on the various dishes and right away we ordered the roasted chicken as they have a limited number available daily and it also takes some time to cook.
What we ate:
Cashew, Cassava & Ash Plantain Fry: nice nibbles of crunchy plantains and cashews with a cassava dip.
Chicken Heart Chukka: this was a small plate but it packed a ton of flavour. The hearts were chopped and mixed with green beans and fragrant and spicy, semi-dry masala. I am not a ‘heart’ person but this dish was excellent.
Duck Roti: Chris said this was his favourite dish and even though it doesn’t photograph well, it was delicious and I kept saving pieces and savouring each bite. The roti is stuffed with ground and heavily spiced ducked and it comes withrasa, aka gravy.
Bonemarrow Varuval: I am also not a marrow lover apart from the one I had a bestia where the marrow was mixed with spatzle. In this case, Chris told us to scrape the marrow and mix it fully with the classic Chettin and masala sauce and then dip the bread in it. It was absolutely phenomenal and so hard to describe, but the marrow melted in the sauce and we wiped every last drop of sauce with the deliciously warm bread that was buttery and easy to pull apart. A must order!
Egg hopper: this was their signature dish, indeed what the restaurant is named after, but it was also our least favoured dish. The hoppers are bowl shaped fermented rice and coconut milk pancake but have a tough texture that reminded me slightly of stereo foam. Colin kept trying bites of it with the various karis (Sri Lankan term for Curry) but I gave up easily and moved on to the other dishes.
Dosa: another of their classics and similar to the Hopper but a cone shaped crisp fermented lentil and rice crepe also used to eat with the Kars. It was bit less porous and crispier than the hopper, but I still did not find it that exciting. On the other hand, the Black Pork Kari that we ordered with it was incredible. Tender chunks of pork in a delicious sauce, that is too complex for me to describe.
Ceylonese Spit Chicken, Gotukola Sambol, Pol Roti: the juiciest and best roasted chicken I’ve tried in ages, and it is definitely worth getting to the restaurant before it opens, just to make sure that you get one! Served with an irrelevant little salad but with a tasty sauce. It was the perfect chicken dish!
Buffalo Buriani, Duck Egg Kari, Yoghurt, Brinjal Moju: the rice was covered with a banana leaf when it arrived at the table, which was the lifted to unveil gorgeous rice with lovely pieces of buffalo and whole cashew nuts tossed throughout. It was served with some yoghurt which was almost unnecessary as the rice was so tasty. It worked quite well also with the sauce that came with the chicken or some leftovers of the bonemarrow sauce.
Roasted Rice Kulfi, Pandan Jelly, Sago, Vermicelli, Rambutan: my friend Colin said he wanted the craziest dessert and they suggested this one. It was visually very fun with loads of bright pink and green sago all over it. We also really loved the kulfi (dairy dessert, creamier and denser than ice cream) that had great texture and taste. Slivers of rambutan surrounded the kulfi.
Watallapam: steamed coconut and jaggery (a type of cane sugar) pudding flavoured with cardamom and cloves that had the texture of flan, but was way more interesting with the mixed spices.
Milk Hopper, Kithul (liquid sugar) Treacle & Jaggery, Durian Ice Cream: Chris, who had been there before, loves their durian ice cream and usually just has that one the side. I tried his and thought it smelled and tasted awful and was way too strong, but we had already ordered the ones with the hopper and it was too late to cancel. The sweet hopper was actually much better than the savoury one, as it was sprinkled with treacle and had a milk cream that tasted really good, but we pushed the ice cream away. I would definitely not order this again.
In sum: casual place with cute details, effective and friendly service and absolutely delicious food you want to eat again. I wanted more of the chicken already by dinner time… I just wish they accepted reservations, but why would they when there is always a line at the door and the place is packed? Just go early and order the chicken before they run out……
Hoppers London http://www.hopperslondon.com/#home
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG