49 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SG, United Kingdom

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This 40 seat, no-reservation Soho eatery has taken over the premises of the late lamented Koya. Opening in October 2015, it is the latest venture of the Sethi family, who run Trishna and Gymkhana. Hoppers is a departure from its siblings as it features the food of Sri Lanka rather than India. Due to its history, which involves multiple invasions from India and existing as a Portuguese, Dutch and British colony until independence in 1948, the cuisine of Sri Lanka has many influences. However it is closest to the food of southern India, with use of coconut and spices, but with some distinct touches all its own.

The room is simple and there are no reservations taken. The format of the menu is a series of small starters, then a curry (“kari”) accompanied by either a dosa (a South Indian pancake made with rice flour and lentils, folded and crisp) or a hopper (a fermented rice and coconut pancake in the shape of a bowl, more usually called appam). Appam originates from Kerala, which demonstrates how intertwined the regional cuisines of this part of the world can be. 

Duck roti was unleavened griddled bread but filled with spiced minced duck. This was very enjoyable, bread fresh and supple, the spices enlivening the duck filling (13/20).

The star dish was black pork curry, the meat cooked slowly with spices and resembling the IndonesianMalaysian dish rendang. The pieces of pork were very tender and with quite vibrant spicing, along with a good pancake (14/20).  I also sampled a crab curry with dosa, which again had good favour, though a hot shellfish in its shell is not easy to eat (13/20).

“Ceylonese Spit Chicken” fortunately turned out to be a description using an adjective rather than a verb. A whole bird had been roasted with spices and was another successful dish, the meat avoiding dryness, the spices lively enough to perk up the chicken (14/20). On the side, a pennyworta (centella, a relative of dill) relish was made with with coconut, onions and sun-dried bonito.  This was unusual, the coconut and quite sharp acidity providing useful freshness (13/20).

Service was friendly. The bill came to £25 a head with just water to drink. If you had dessert and something alcoholic then a typical cost per head all in would be a little more, say £35. This seems to me quite good value for what is carefully made and enjoyable food. 

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