31 Mar Sri Lankan memories: Hoppers London
I arrived at Hoppers London 10 minutes before opening & already the queue was 10 deep. Being British means that I like queues… although I find the Spanish better at queueing, or at least at the local food markets.
As we waited patiently for Hoppers’ doors to open, I struck up conversation with the two guys behind; they were both from India, & Hoppers was a favourite. “They should know,” I thought.
I was there to rekindle warm memories & feelings from my stay at the Sen Wellness Sanctuary, on Sri Lanka’s far-flung Rekawa Beach, where we followed an Ayurvedic diet (Hoppers is not Ayurvedic) with produce bought fresh from the market each day.
Hoppers London is named after, well, the hopper, the most Sri Lankan of dishes. A hopper is like a wafer-thin, curved pancake made out of fermented rice & coconut milk… real comfort food.
The restaurant is part of the group run by the Sethi family, whose stable includes 3 Michelin-starred restaurants in London… Trishna & Gymkhana, both Indian restaurants, and Kitchen Table, where I ate on my birthday a few years ago. Also part of the stable is Lyle’s, BAO Soho & Bubbledogs, my favourite place in London for a glass of Champagne, & the only place were I eat hotdogs.
Hoppers is in the heart of Soho, in Frith Street, a couple of doors down from Ronnie Scotts jazz club, and across the street from Bar Italia, London’s first venue to serve decent coffee.
What I liked about Hoppers
- Hoppers’ symbol of a jolly man with a big belly & moustache. He looks so happy & he makes me laugh, and laughter is good for you.
- Front of house is Karan Gokani, husband of Sunaina Sethi. He runs an efficient, happy ship, with the waiting team ready to give you an enthusiastic crash course in Sri Lankan cuisine. This is about eating as an adventure, a discovery.
- It’s a cosy restaurant, with warm golden colours & soft, Indian music in the background.
- The produce is really fresh & wholesome.
What I ate & drink at Hoppers
- Pennywort, pineapple & ginger juice
- Mutton rolls
- String hopper with kiri hodi (coconut mik gravy with fenugreek & Maldive fish) & pol sambol (a relish made from ground coconut, Maldive fish, onion & red chilli).
- The classic hopper, served with pol sambol, seeni sambol (caramelized onion) & coriander chutney. My favourite!
- Gourd & cashew nut kari, or curry.
The cocktails looked good, too. I could easily have gone for a Pineapple & Black Pepper Punch, with Arrack, the local drink made from distilled coconut flower sap, together with saffron & vanilla bitters, black pepper cream soda & a pineapple foam. That’ll be for next time.
The bill: £23, all inclusive.