Cocktails using genever and arrack will feature on the menu of a new London restaurant inspired by Sri Lanka and southern India.
Hoppers is to be opened by leading restaurateurs Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi in Frith Street, Soho, on October 28, with the hopper and dosa at the heart of the food offering.
The bar will specialise in arrack, made from fermented coconut sap, which is produced in Sri Lanka. The spirit will form a base for drinks such as the Toddy Tapper, using Ceylon Arrack, toasted coconut and bittered wine.
Genever, the malty Dutch predecessor of gin, will be used in cocktails such as the Serendib Sweetie, combining Zuidam Jenever, Cashew Orgeat and cumin bitters, and the Citizen Burgher, a mix of genever, papaya, coconut water and white port. Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka was governed by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries and the Sri Lankan descendants of the Dutch are known as Burghers. Cocktails will be priced around £8 to £9.
Sri Lanka’s favourite beer, Lion Lager, will be available as well as “Hoppers House Halves” which will be half bottles of wine produced by Michele Chiarlo in Piedmont. Masala buttermilk, Dilmah Metre Tea, and black pepper cream soda will be made in house.
Inspired by the cuisine of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu in southern India, the hoppers will be made in the traditional way with a batter of ground white rice and coconut milk. Cooked in a special wok-type vessel known as an “appachatti”, the batter forms a bowl-shaped pancake with a spongy centre and crisp edges. It can be filled with a black pepper podi. They will cost £3 plain or £4 with egg.
Each hopper will be served with a choice of meat, seafood or vegetable kari (from £3) and accompanied by three sambols: Pol, made with freshly scraped coconut flesh; Seeni, with a caramelised onion base; and Katta, made with red chilli, onion and Maldive fish.
Dosas will be made from a rice, urad dal (split black lentils) and fenugreek seed batter and cooked on thick dosa tawas (flat griddles), made specially in India. Each dosa will be served with a choice of meat, seafood or vegetable kari, and with a tomato and coconut chutney, a curry leaf chutney and a fresh coconut chutney.
Similar to those on the Sethis’ Michelin-starred menu at Gymkhana in London’s Mayfair, the dosas will be conical in shape, but at Hoppers they will be twice the size. They will be available in a choice of plain (£3.75) or podi (£4) which is a powder made from red chilli, urad dal, chana (split baby chickpeas) dal, sesame seeds, asafoetida and curry leaf and sprinkled on the inside of the dosa as it cooks.
Alongside the hoppers and dosas, there will be a selection of “Short Eats”, based on the Sri Lankan term for snacks, typically eaten with drinks. These will include Pig Shank Roti (£5); Rasa crab omelette (£5); and Cashew and Ash Plantain Fry, curry leaf podi (£3.50).
A selection of ‘Rice Roast and Kothu’ dishes will include Buffalo Buriani, bone marrow, duck egg Kari, buffalo yoghurt, brinjal moju (£14); Tamil Spit Chicken, gotu kola sambol, pol roti (£16); and Hoggett Kothu Roti (£6.50).
A short dessert menu will offer Watalapam, a steamed custard made with coconut milk, kithul jaggery and spices (£4.50) and a falooda of Buffalo curd, salted cashew and candied ginger kulfi, rambutan, coconut water and pandan jelly (£4.50).
The interiors, designed by Katy Manolescue of Article Design Studio, will feature warm terracotta tiles, a woven rattan ceiling and ochre brick wall finishes. The walls will be adorned with Raksha masks – the vibrant demon faces used widely in Sri Lankan festivals and dances and said to ward off evil – as well as Sri Lankan poster art and Tamil comic imagery. Cheese plants, pineapple and money plants will breathe an exotic air into the room.
Hoppers will open at 49 Frith Street which was formerly Junya Yamasaki’s Japanese udon noodle restaurant Koya.
Through their group , JKS Restaurants, the Sethis co-own and run Michelin-starred Trishna and Gymkhana, with Karam Sethi looking after food and concepts, brother Jyotin as managing director and sommelier sister Sunaina curating the wine lists and looking after operations.
JKS Restaurants also includes Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia, the Michelin-starred Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia, the Michelin-starred Lyle’s in Shoreditch, and Bao in Soho.