Hoppers is bringing its Sri Lankan street food to Marylebone as it opens its second site in St Christopher's Place (and this one takes bookings)
The queues at Soho restaurant Hoppers are as long as when it opened two years ago, but there’s now good news for those who’ve yet to score a table. Its owners (also responsible for Michelin-starred Indian restaurants Trishna and Gymkhana) have opened a second, larger site in Marylebone – and it takes bookings.
Set across two floors, it seats 85 plus groups in its four private dining vaults, where the décor is inspired by the Tropical Modernist movement (think plants, rattan screens and varnished wood) often associated with the late Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.
The restaurant’s namesake dish, the hopper – a crispy bowl-shaped pancake made from a fermented lentil and rice batter – also hails from Sri Lanka, and the menu focuses on the country’s traditional cuisine, with some influence from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Some dishes exclusive to this branch include larger ‘rice and roast’ mains and new karis – the Tamil word for curry – with options ranging from lamb shank to aubergine.
My guest and I begin with some short eats – small plates designed to get you started – with cocktails. For a Sri Lankan twist on a classic, try the George Gardner, a G&T with mango leaf and grapefruit bitters, or the Arrack Attack no 2, akin to a Moscow Mule with lime, turmeric and arrack, a Sri Lankan spirit made from the sap of the coconut blossom flower.
We pair our drinks with juicy corn on the cob, smothered in hot spiced podi butter and topped with a coriander relish and some exceptionally tender Jaffna beef rib fry. The lamb kothu roti – a popular type of street food where meat or vegetables are chopped and mixed with greens, chunks of scrambled egg, and roti – is a one-pot wonder.
Service is speedy and dishes arrive in quick succession.
Finally I get to try the hopper. We go for the special edition with a fried egg at the bottom, which isn’t as messy to eat as you’d think. We use it like a naan to dip in our pots of chunky cauliflower and chicken kari. The crepe-like podi dosa, shaped like a cone and coated in a coarse spicy powder mix of ground dry spices and seeds, serves a similar purpose, but we need a side of yoghurt to cool us down afterwards. If you’re not having curry, other sides and dips for the podis and dosa include Brinjal Moju (pickled aubergines) or Indian-style chutneys.
There is an ice cream dessert if your mouth is still on fire, but for us, the mains are the definitive high note. And it’s all so good, I’d have happily queued for it.