Address: 49 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SG
Bookings: no bookings allowed
Price: £ (no alcohol)
Hoppers offers a slice of Sri Lanka dropped in the middle of Soho… for those prepared to brave the frighteningly long queue.
We went down on a Saturday, at 7pm, probably the worst conceivable time of the week. A glowingly friendly member of staff informed us that the wait would be “two hours, perhaps two and a half,” before adding by way of consolation: “but you can go away and come back.”
Two hours later, having sat in nearby La Bodega Negra eating a parched bowl of nachos and flavourless guacamole all whilst watching a small clan of homeless people quarrel with each other on the pavement, we made our way back to Hoppers, ready to be resentful.
Once inside however, our mood quickly melted. Bubbly staff were matched by upbeat music, old film posters decking the walls and the throb of lively conversation.
The menu comes equipped with a glossary (handy for those whose knowledge of South Asian cuisine doesn’t extend much further than chicken tikka), but the staff seem to relish explaining the menu at any opportunity.
The fusion of spice and flavours can be tasted in every dish. The highlight was a lamb roti, a mixture of onions, roti bread, tender pieces of succulent lamb, and a tomato based curry, all blended in one bowl. The dish was well spiced, but have no fear, an ample supply of yoghurt is on standby for those with more delicate palates.
Another novelty is the restaurant’s actual namesake, a hopper, which we had served with an egg. Made out of fermented rice and coconut, it takes the form of a thinly shaped bowl that you can tear pieces off for dipping purposes. Great for sharing.
A mild chicken curry (apparently spelt ‘kari’ in Sri Lanka) was a pleasant contrast to the heat of some ‘Hot Buttered Devil Shrimps’. The entire experience was a riot of flavours, each dish its own unique blend, making every bite something of an adventure.
The restaurant has a casual feel and friendly vibe. Go down with your mates or have a casual date. All for a great price. But unless you turn up at a time nobody else actually eats, then prepare to queue!