Hoppers | Sri Lankan Eats in Soho
Newly-opened Hoppers in Soho is all the rage among the Instagram community, but are the dishes up to scratch for the price point and wait time endured?
It was a freezing December Friday when Miho and I braved ourselves for an hour-long wait at the recently opened and raved about Hoppers. The newest addition to the JKS Restaurants family (cue popular haunts like Kitchen Table, Lyle’s, and Bao), we had been promised an excellent meal from fellow food bloggers and Instagram sensations alike.
Our limbs warmed once seated aside the cosy bar (and a rather silent couple), as we glanced at the menu. I caught Miho taking a few double takes just like me as we found ourselves unable to understand a single dish. What the heck is Kari? Or Chukka (especially when “chicken heart” precedes it)? But once we flipped the menu over to find the glossary we began the arthritic process of flicking our wrists to turn the sheet over multiple times to come to an ordering decision.
Mind you, it was difficult narrowing down the top dishes to try, albeit being a rather concise menu. Our waitress recommended far too many to share, but we also didn’t see ourselves queuing for another hour anytime soon…
We began with mutton rolls, hot butter devilled shrimps and bone marrow varuval with roti. We agreed the bone marrow was too delicate for the thick curry, but the warm, tender mutton rolls accompanied by a spicy salsa-esque sauce provided just the right comfort for winter. The shrimps were a stand-out dish, the perfect balance of spice in the rich buttery sauce.
As it would be sacrilegious not to order a single hopper given the restaurant’s name, we opted for the one with egg, and played it safe with a chilli dosa. We lapped up the rather bland rice pancakes with sambols and chutneys we had to pay extra for, wondering if the black pork curry would provide any excitement to the evening. But with one lick of the spoon we found ourselves eating more familiar spices we’d already sensed in the previous dishes. Perhaps a yogurt-based drink to cleanse the palate between dishes should have been our port of call, however, when we noticed our wallets thinning at the speed of global warming, we thought better of it.
We should have stopped there, but given my love for street food vendor Kothu Kothu, I was curious to know if Hoppers’ lamb kothu would blow me away. While the flavour was authentic, the constant fetch for star anise and cinnamon bark from my mouth was not. And certainly the pile of black chewed up leftovers on my plate didn’t leave much appetite for dessert. But of course I can’t leave a restaurant without at least dabbling in a few sweets so we settled on the watalappam and love cake with yoghurt kulfi. The watalappam, a steamed coconut and jaggery pudding flavoured with cardamom and cloves tasted like a firm flan. But the love cake was more up my alley with a moist spice cake texture surrounded by a doughnut-like crystallised crust.
Two and a half hours of having sampled a large majority of the menu, we rolled away not knowing exactly how we felt. Just totally exploding full. A restless spicy sleep was to follow. The short eats, or first round of food, were definitely the highlight for me, but what followed was good, if not a bit samey. I can’t speak to the authenticity of the food, but I know that for the price of our bill, a flight to the country itself might have been cheaper. But I suppose small plates will do that to you. I’d love to return to try the buffalo buriani and full spit chicken. The roti and devilled shrimp alone are enough to make a return visit once the hype has calmed.
I’m guessing you’ve already been to Hoppers…would you agree?