During my first visit to Hoppers just before Christmas 2015 I queued for 30 minutes at 11.30am before their doors opened at 12pm. During my second visit I did the same and every time I’m doing so, passers-by ask ‘why is everyone queuing, this place must be good!?’ Hoppers have their marketing licked already, just get everyone else to do it! This time I’m accompanied by 2 of my siblings, to show them what a marvel this no-bookings place is. Don’t worry if you’re clueless about Sri Lankan food as there is a glossary on the menu – staff are helpful and happy to give you a crash course on what to eat as well. (My first review can be seen here).
The menu is separated by ‘short eats’, ‘sides’ and hoppers + dosas. What was advised on both my visits is that the food doesn’t arrive in any particular order, it comes when it’s ready. I have no qualms with that. What I’ve found though is that ‘Short eats’ and ‘sides’ arrive before your hoppers or dosas. And remember to order a kari (Tamil for curry) with your hoppers and dosas.
Chicken Heart Chukka (£4.5). A must have, a marvellous dish and just as good as the first time. It comes with pieces of chicken thigh too.
Hot Butter Devilled Shrimps (£6.5). Heat, spice and an abundant amount of flavour. The sauce is punchy and hits your tongue with reckless abandon. I really wish they would fill the bowl to the edges. There’s simply not enough to go around!
Mutton rolls £4.5 for 2. They were awesome enough to add a 3rd one for us since we were a party of 3. These thick crispy skinned spring rolls are filled with succulent, slow cooked and spiced mutton. Another must have.
Bonemarrow Varuval, Roti (£5.5) – Roti’s are essential for mopping up any of the delicious sauce or excess bone marrow, otherwise you’ll end up sucking your fingers off!
Egg Hopper (£3.5). Bowl shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. They are even more delectable than they look. Perfect for breaking and dipping.
Hoppers are also available sans egg which my sister ordered as she is allergic to them.
Black Pork Kari (£5.5). So called because of the roasted dark spices and not the breed of pig. It was a small pot of curry wonder, making a beautiful impact with is punchy flavours.
Lamb Kari (£6). Another demolished kari, delightful but not as compelling as the rest.
Drumstick Sambhar (£3). This is a lentil based stew indigenous of South India or Sri Lanka. The drumstick sambhar’s name is indicative of it’s long drumstick like appearance. Sadly though this was a head scratcher for me as the sambhar, although okra like in appearance, was a far cry to how tender it looked. The vegetable was starchy and it was akin to chewing on dried out asparagus butts.
Ceylonese Spit Chicken (£19). Our waitress said allow for 30 minutes cooking time, I tell you what it was bloody worth it! A dish I didn’t try last time and was desperate make amends. It’s marinated in 15 different spices and roasted until tender on a rotisserie. What you get is a fall off the bone aromatic masterpiece. Delicious.
It comes with gotukola sambol and pol roti. Gotukola is a Sri Lankan salad which typically consist of pennywort (gotukola), grated coconut, shallots, lime juice, green chilli, salt & pepper. It’s a grown up salad and the peppery leaves work well against the acidity of lime.
Another Chicken Heart Chukka was thrown in for good measure!
Dosa (£3 each) with coriander, tomato and coconut chutney. Dosas are made from fermented lentils & rice and these ones are simply magic. Golden brown in hue and crisp – they are made for dipping, even on their own they’re intensely satisfying.
This is for 3 and as you can see we probably had enough for 5!
The damage: Expect to pay £30-£35 per head for a lot of food!
The good: My second time here and it’s just as good as the first. Every dish pungent, punchy and flavour driven. I love the fact that coconut is the main cooking oil in the dishes which leaves you full without having the urge to fall into an immediate food coma like their ghee laden cousins in Bengali restaurants. The staff are equally as good natured and show charming enthusiasm to answer all the questions I had!
The bad: If you’re not one to queue, don’t look away, believe me when I tell you that this place is worth it. Oh and avoid the drumstick sambhar.
49 Frith Street London, W1D 6SG
Closest tube: Piccadilly Circus/Tottenham Court Road