Hoppers London opened on the 28th of October 2015, by the Sethi siblings Karam, Jyotin and Sunainain in the premises that formally housed Koya – the bunch famed for cooking fresh udon noodles. Maybe you know already, if you don’t there is a mention in my Bao London review that they are also behind Trishna, Gymkhana, Kitchen Table/Bubble Dogs and Michelin starred Lyles of Shoreditch. So what is it about? Well, it’s Sri Lankan and Tamil inspired street food, hoppers and dosas are their main commands. The snacks are traditionally served from road side shacks in their native origins. In case you’re wondering they are bowl shaped pancakes made from fermented rice batter and coconut milk. Dosas may be more familiar territory, which are a fermented batter of ground rice and lentils. It’s all enjoyed in a 40 cover intimate restaurant, clad with patterned tiles, wood panelling and comes with a copper topped bar. The casual affair continues with the exposed brick work, hand carved masks too. It’s a strictly ‘no-bookings’ restaurant, but stay with me here, keep reading to find out if it’s worth queuing for!
The menu is easy to follow as is the drinks list – we’re off to a good start.
We commence with a glass of coconut water (£2.5), a green apple hued, refreshing beverage that doubles up as a palate cleanser.
Cashew, casava and ash plantain fry (£3) we’re first up from the ‘snacks’ section, and it’s the kind of snack you need on the sofa watching your favourite series. I mean that in the best possible way. The crisps were crunchy and lightly dusted with spice – dipped into the smokey, tangy, spicy sauce it came with gave an addictive bite.
Idli, sambar, podi (£3.5), a South India steamed rice cake, nestled into sambar (vegetable stew) and all lifted by a ground spice they call podi.
Chicken heart chukka (£4.5). The hearts were cooked in a plethora of spices, caramelised with pieces of chicken thigh too. They were my favourite thing to eat from the ‘snacks’ section. If organ meat isn’t your thing then I’d guarantee you’d be converted after eating this dish. They were cast iron delectable.
Mutton rolls (£4.5 for 2 rolls). Crispy shelled snacks filled with gamey spiced mutton, all punched up with the tangy sambal dip it came with.
Hot butter devilled shrimps (£6.5). A thickly spiced dish, yet the sweet flavour of the pert shrimp still shone through. It was a winning dish.
Egg hopper (£3.5). It was recommend by our waiter to go for a hopper each with a kari. It was a great piece fo advice. A bowl shaped crispy pancake was what we got, with soft eggy centre, all made for dunking. The lamb kari was full bodied, punchy (£5.50) and above all delicious.
Red pumkin kari (£4). Juicy and fragrant – but probably the weakest dish.
Fish kari (£5.5). I forgot to ask what type of fish it was, but it matter as it was meaty and didn’t get lost in the depth of the oil sheen’d pumpkin orange sauce it came with.
We’ve been informed that you should rip pieces of the hopper to dip into the kari’s. We couldn’t stop.
Podi dosa (£3.5). So crisp you’ll hear the sound ricochet from ear to ear as you break into them. Again they’re made for scooping sauce. If you don’t order these you will miss out.
We ordered, by recommendation, some coriander, tomato and coconut chutneys to go with the dosas. Every other sauce we had could run circles around these (no pun intended). At £1 though you can’t grumble too much.
Crab kari (£10) is from the specials and is a must have dish – the sweet integrity of the crab flesh stayed intact and is all coated in that finger licking thick, spicy aromatic sauce. So good!
Bone marrow varuval, roti (£4.5). A lovely diner who I sat next to, wax lyricalled at how good they were, which reminded me that we ordered them, but they didn’t land on our table. Our waiter somehow omitted our order, it was crime against our bellies, but this was quickly remedied with a portion arriving piping hot within minutes. Unctuous as well as creamy, it was made for scooping and spreading over the roti it comes with – it was one of the best things I blessed my mouth with in a while!
The damage: Expect to pay £30-£35 per head for a lot of food!
The good: Quite possibly the best curry I’ve had in London of recent times, piping hot, robustly spiced, fantastic ingredients and super fast service. I’m happy I’m not a Hopper’s virgin anymore, if you eat here and aren’t happy there is no hope for you. I’ve since been back and that review can be seen here.
The bad: You can’t book, so I would suggest getting there a few minutes before opening time, just like us.
49 Frith Street London, W1D 6SG