Sri Lankan cuisine is about as familiar to me as the Rugby World Cup, so the notion of Hoppers, a restaurant specialising in the dish of the very same name, seemed like an intriguing one.
It’s based in the former site of Koya and it’s by the Sethi family – who know a thing or three about brilliant restaurants, whether it’s ones they run; Gymkhana and Trishna, or ones they back; Bubbledogs, Lyle’s and Bao.
It’s a small but cosy dining room with the sort of Indian music in the background that makes you want to sing along. Staff are enthusiastically enthusiastic and were able to explain the slightly complicated menu with ease.
Food comes out as and when it’s ready. First up, bonemarrow veruval and roti (£4.50), which is an Indian flatbread. The bone marrow was served with a spoon for scooping out all the delicious fat to slather over the buttery bread. Order extra roti as you’ll want to soak up the incredible sauce.
Mutton rolls (£4), which came with a spicy tomato relish, had a crisp exterior filled with rich mutton. Hot butter devilled shrimps (£6) could have been double the portion size as the prawns were so small (5 seemed a little measly), but the flavour was outstanding.
The best of the little snacks was the chicken heart chukka (£4.50) – if you’re not a chicken heart convert after tasting this then there’s no hope for you.
For main, you choose a hopper (£3), a bowl shaped fermented rice and coconut milk pancake, or a dosa (£3), a crisp fermented lentil and rice crepe, and a karis (the Tamil term for curry) to accompany it. Are you keeping up?
The lamb kari (£5.50) featured chunks of lamb so tender I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. The spicing, although aggressive, was complex and layered and bloody wonderful. Same for the black pork kari (£5.50); the pork being soft and fatty yet with little crunchy, salty bits.
For pudding, a big glug of water and a patted brow, along with some love cake (£4). The cake was warm with a real cinnamon hit to it; the type of cake I’d like to eat on a cold Winter’s evening.
Service was seriously friendly but it did drop in and out at times when things got particularly busy, which was a tad annoying seeing how small the place is. But there’s no denying it, Sri Lankan food is great and a meal at Hoppers is really rather thrilling.