Hoppers St. Christopher’s Place: Review
The original Hoppers was one of those uniquely London success stories that have changed so much about the way we eat out over the last few years. Take a little-known or geographically-specific cuisine, introduce it to a youthful new audience in attractive and vibrant surroundings, and — the most important part — make sure it’s no reservations, meaning you can turn tables and keep the costs down. So, what Polpo did for the Venetian Bacaro and Dishoom did for the Bombay Irani café, Hoppers did for Sri Lankan food — funked it up and served it with style and at a remarkably egalitarian price point. It was — and quite rightly still is — a smash hit.
The best news about the new Hoppers, in a beautiful new location on St. Christopher’s Place, is that, where it matters, not much has changed. The menu is still an irresistible dance through exciting Sri Lankan specialities such as black pork ribs, banana leaf roasted bream and Jaffna lamb chops; service is still blindingly charming and efficient; and it’s to be enjoyed in a plush-but-characterful space, all dark polished booths and backlighting.
What has changed is that — shock of shocks — you can now book; at least, you can book tables for two or more at lunchtime, and four or more in the evenings. This will take a little bit of the uncertainty out of eating here, and make a fair few people quite happy. Also, the slightly expanded menu has allowed for a mini tasting menu of sorts, a “feast” to be taken by the whole table, which includes more food than you’d ever reasonably want to eat for a very equitable £28.50 per head.
Photo: Chris Pople
Included in said feast, Sri Lankan classics such as these mutton rolls and hot sauce: crisp, dry-fried tubes of gamey meat, to be dunked in a hot tomato-chilli sauce…
Photo: Chris Pople
…’hot butter devilled chipirones’: one of the more charming new dishes, dainty baby squid, coated in a crisp batter of rewarding complex spices…
…the famous bonemarrow varuval: huge pieces of jellified offal soaked in a rich curry, presented with a fresh roti so buttery and light it was like eating a flattened croissant…
…and lamb kothu roti: a bowl of minced lamb, fluffy pieces of fresh roti and bouncy scrambled egg topped with fresh coriander, a satisfying and comforting thing. The dishes arrive with remarkable speed; the one complaint we do have is that, despite the extremely pleasant service, it all seems a bit rushed. But then, we’re equally sure that if you asked them they’d be happy to stagger the courses, so why not just do that.
What we can’t complain about is the amount of food you get for your feast dollar. While all the above was still resting in our stomachs, the ‘main courses’ arrived: warm hoppers (a kind of bowl-shaped fermented Sri Lankan pancake, in case this is all new to you) with dense, satisfying chicken curry (sorry, ‘kari’) and flaky dosas paired with a tomato-chilli kari groaning with vast, meaty prawns. All of it generous in every sense of the word, a feast for the stomach and the soul.
So yes, we love the new Hoppers. It’s probably impossible not to; anyone who’s ever been smitten by the Soho branch — and that should include more or less everyone who’s ever eaten there — will find just as much to love here in Marylebone, where the same skill in the kitchen and warmth of service is given just that little more room to beguile and delight. If you haven’t yet had the chance to succumb for its charms, there’s no better time than the present. And if you have, get ready to fall head over heels all over again.
JOL was invited to review Hoppers on a complimentary basis. We retain full editorial control.