When it comes to food, I am willing to do just about anything. Queuing up an hour early to get a bite of Yolkin? – check. Head-butting my way through crowds at food festivals? – check. Trekking through the blistering Dubai heat to find SALT? – yep, I was stupid enough to do that too. But even a foolhardy blogger like myself had to think twice about joining the allegedly outrageous queues that form outside Hoppers.
Housed in Soho, this highly-acclaimed Sri Lankan eatery has been consistently regarded as one of the best restaurants in London. Unsurprisingly, this has attracted small plate enthusiasts from far and wide, many of whom who would happily queue for hours on end, until they have lost their jobs, missed their mortgage repayments, and been declared missing or dead by their loved ones. Such popularity has for the last few years, done as much to intrigue me as it has to put me off making a visit. But, when it was announced that Hoppers would be opening a new branch in St Christopher’s Place – and hopefully, spreading out the load of diners, we managed to pluck up the courage to face the mob.
Much to our surprise, we arrived to find no queue and a fairly moderately-populated restaurant – no doubt, a perk of being the kind of bizarre individuals who would dine out on a Monday night. To begin, we ordered a bowl of “chicken wings chukka”, which instantly set the tone for the rest of the meal. The wings were dense, yet wonderfully tender, and the thick spicy coating carried a set of layered flavours and a fantastic amount of heat.
Chicken Wing Chukka (£6.50) *Must-Eat*
Next, we tried the lamb kothu – a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine. Here, the textures of the soft roti, the tender lamb, and the crunchy assortment of spring onions and coriander integrated seamlessly, resulting in a devilishly moreish dish that we simply could not stop shovelling into our faces.
Lamb Kothu Roti (£11) *Must-Eat*
With my inner-carnivore relatively appeased, Steak managed to convince me to try a simple dosa, and ordered both a coriander chutney and a pol (coconut) sambol to go with it. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of dosa anyway, my ability to critique it was relatively void, but I could certainly appreciate the light and crispy texture, and the appeal it would have for others. Steak for one, very much enjoyed it alongside the pleasantly sharp and acidic coriander chutney, but neither of our palates took a liking to the pol sambol.
Dosa (£4) *Recommended*
We had also ordered a prawn kari, which was composed of soft, tender prawns in a rich and creamy curry base. Here, we encountered a subtle sweetness that was layered with heat and spice, resulting in a very balanced and satisfying dish.
Prawn Kari (£9.50) *Recommended*
Needless to say, it would be heresy to visit Hoppers without ordering their namesake, and so, the highly popular egg hopper made its way to our table. Forged from a fermented rice and coconut batter, the thin, crispy hopper sat in perfect contrast to the soft and gooey egg yolk, and the very hands-on nature of the dish made it rather good fun to eat.
Egg Hopper (£4.50) *Must-Eat*
On a second visit with Groot and Neo, I decided to try the the hefty lamb shank kari. Here, the tender lamb – which fell apart with minimal effort, was emboldened by the rich, tomato-based curry, which provided a satisfying combination of heat and vibrancy.
Lamb Shank Kari (£16) *Recommended*
Alas, the only aspect of the menu that falls short is the dessert section – written in singular form because it is occupied solely by a cinnamon and jaggery ice cream sandwich. Whilst the dentist in me should probably rejoice at the significant lack of sugar on the menu, the rogue food-blogger in me thinks that this is a bit of a shame. Still, the lonely sandwich – composed of a strong cinnamon and jaggery ice cream held between two delightful ginger nut biscuits, did well to satisfy, despite being a bit on the small side.
Ice Cream Sandwich (£5.50)
Value For Money: 3.5/5
For many readers, the thought of visiting a popular tapas-style restaurant in central London can often generate a bit of a cold sweat, but rest assured, the price to portion ratio at Hoppers is not overly outrageous. Most small to medium plates range from £4 to £12, whilst larger items cost around £15 to £20. Our own meal amounted to just under £50, (£25 per person), which we felt was reasonable for a filling meal in central London.
Hospitality also seems to be one of Hoppers’ strong suits, as the staff members we encountered were exceptionally courteous and helpful. Service was both efficient and attentive, and one does not imagine that it would suffer greatly when things get a little busier.
Decor / Ambience: 3.5/5
If, unlike myself, you can look away from your food long enough to take note of your surroundings, you will no doubt appreciate the “tropical modernism” of the decor at St. Christopher’s Place. The restaurant boasts a crisp harmony between traditionalism and contemporary styling, and with its fairly reasonable size, it would certainly be a suitable setting for special occasions. Though, given the fairly dim dinner lighting, you may be inclined to save it for your more aesthetically-challenged friends. The St. Christopher’s branch can be found a short walk away from Bond Street station, whilst the Soho branch lies between Tottenham Court Road and Piccadilly Circus. Limited parking opportunities are also available for madmen and people with too much money.
With its broad menu and its near-faultless food, it’s not difficult to see why Hoppers has become such a coveted dining experience. Indeed, the life-threatening queues do seem to be justified, and whilst fortunately, we did not have to experience them, one would imagine that the end result would be well worth the wait. Truth be told, if you eat as much as we do, you could probably do with a few minutes of standing out in the cold.
- Only the chicken and the lamb are halal. Pork and alcohol are served on the premises.
- The St. Christopher’s Place branch take bookings for four people or more only.
- The Soho branch does not take bookings.
Address (Soho): 49 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4SG
Address (St.Christopher’s Place): 77 Wigmore St, Marylebone, London W1U 1QE
Telephone (St. Christopher’s Place): 020 3319 8110