To brave a no-bookings restaurant in Soho on a Friday night, you have to be bored, brave or convinced that what you’re going to eat will be worth the wait. Happily at Hoppers, it’s the latter in 99% of cases. A Sri Lankan restaurant from the team that brought London Gymkhana, Bao and Bubbledogs, Hoppers is a knock-out.
One of the main draws on the menu are the hoppers; good enough, in fact, that they named the restaurant after them. These delicate pancakes, made from rice flour and coconut milk, are wafer-thin and formed into bowls. Served with an egg (which manages to be soft-set while the pancake itself is crispy-crunchy) and a trio of sauces – coconut relish, caramelised onion relish, and a coriander chutney – it’s a marvel that it’s as reasonably priced as it is. Elsewhere on the menu there are hot buttered devilled shrimp, hunks of finger-licking bone marrow varuval served with roti, and mutton rolls so good they might just make a mutton-convert out of any stalwart sheep-avoider.
For those in the mood for a curry, check out the “karis” – the Tamil term for what you’re looking for. But there’s a helpful glossary included with the menu so you’ll have no problem navigating it on the day – you might even learn a thing or two. The black pork kari, incidentally, is great, but there’s also all manner of rice, roasts, and kothu (chopped roti cooked with vegetables or meat/seafood) to enjoy as well. A few visits to Hoppers might be in order to fully munch your way around the menu.
The restaurant itself – with rattan on the ceiling, colourful tiles on the floor, and movie posters and masks on the walls – is on the small side, as you might expect from Soho. But they’ve got a queuing system which makes the prospect of dining again – something you will be convinced of after your first meal here – infinitely more palatable. Speaking of your palate: Hoppers has a great drinks list, made up of “softs” and “hards”. For the latter, you couldn’t go wrong with a thirst-quenching Sunshine Juice (orange and carrot juice with ginger, turmeric and honey). But for our money, the Ceylon G+T (Hoppers gooseberry gin mixed with lime leaf, burnt grapefruit and tonic) hits the spot every time.