Until last week the only Hopper I was aware of was the space hopper, an inflatable ball with ears you held onto and bounced around on having endless fun as a kid. Hoppers in Soho is a completely different kind of endless. An endless array of exquisite food and dishes to explore. The food here is phenomenal!
Hoppers was my first experience of Sri Lankan food and I would describe the cuisine as warming, hearty and multi dimensional. Spices and chilli give their Karis (curry) a warmth and kick you would expect whilst the Egg Hopper (rice and coconut milk pancake bowl with an egg in the middle) was a more hearty and complex take on, in my opinion, a Mexican taco, which is probably their very lame attempt at this dish.
My favourite short eat had to be the Goat Roti with Rasa, these spring roll type appetisers packed with shredded goat meat and served with a Sri Lankan gravy were the simplest thing I tried and hard to explain why I loved them so much. The meat was tender and seasoned perfectly and the spring roll casing was almost breaded opposed to the thin filo pastry we are more commonly familiar with. The Rasa reminded me of a sweet chilli dip compared to good old Bisto gravy, but it was thicker and richer like a gravy. The Hot Butter Devilled Shrimps were hot! Make no mistake about the first word in that description but accompanied by spring onion, peppers and cooked in a chilli ragu type sauce it’s a great small plate to share. We also tried the Bonemarrow Varuval, Roti which actually surprised me as it was really quite pleasant. Having only tried Bonemarrow in steak restaurants I’d found the texture a little strange and just the whole thing pointless. I didn’t dislike it but at the same time I didn’t feel it added anything to the dish. Hoppers bonemarrow takes centre stage and the whole ingredient is completely different when not designed as a side accompaniment.
After our appetisers we ordered two Karis – fish and lamb. I would never normally order Fish Curry but it was recommended by the waitress and the friend I was with is a fan. The fish melted in your mouth and paired against an intensely flavoured curry the softness and purity of the fish stood out even more, definitely something I will continue to sample. The Lamb Kari was spicier and again whilst the meat melted in the mouth it was the contrast of the Egg Hopper dipped into the sauce that set this dish alight. Being a traditionally sweet pancake eater I was excited to see how Hoppers and Dosas worked against not only savoury flavours but exotic and spice. I have to say I’m completely converted and loved this new way to eat something I’d always thought of as a dessert.
Hoppers is a non reservations restaurant in the heart of Soho on Frith Street. They opened their doors in October last year and with family-style cooking accompanied by innovative cocktails have been a success ever since. What I really liked to hear is they have listened to customers feedback since opening and adapted their menu accordingly. Obviously I did my own research before going here to see what dishes others recommended and with one of them being a dessert I was surprised to hear these had now been taken off the menu. But when the feedback was that customers want more savoury dishes that is what Hoppers have delivered. The decor is traditional and authentic meaning you feel like you are abroad not in the heart of central London, a wonderful escape I’m sure you will agree! If you’ve read this far here’s a reward, try the Citizen Burgher cocktail made with coconut water so basically healthy right?!
Check out the glossary on the back of the menu if there are words you don’t recognise or ask as the waiting staff are really helpful and attentive. Here’s a few that I’ve spoken about …
Dosa – crisp fermented lentil and rice crepe
Hopper – bowl shaped fermented rice and cocnut milk pancake
Kari – the Tamil term for Curry
Rasa – Gravy
Varuval – a classic Chettinad dish
Hoppers, 49 Frith Street, London, W1G 4SG
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