The elegant end of London’s Indian restaurant spectrum owes a lot to the Sethi family. Through Trishna, they introduced the capital’s diners to splendid coastal cuisine. Through Gymkhana, they revealed rich Indian game dishes served up alongside inventive cocktails in a controversial colonially-styled dining room deemed ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the 2014 National Restaurant Awards. And, through their October opening, the Sethis will captivate the city with simple South Indian street food.
Soho is the neighbourhood marked out as the home for Hoppers – the Sethi’s third London-based Indian restaurant, designed by Katy Manolescue of Article Design Studio and named for the eponymous saucer-shaped pancake that’s currently an all-too alien species in the UK. Made from fermented rice-and-coconut-milk batter, hoppers (aka ‘appams’ (ஆப்பம்), – an alleged British mispronunciation of the word hopper – in Tamil Nadu and South India) are low-fat, gluten-free, and very, very versatile; as at home crammed with jam as scooping up stew.
Spongy, soft, and slightly sweet, with a light tang from the fermentation, hoppers are a cousin of crumpets. Indeed, anyone who approves of those wholly-British hole-packed snacks will be happy with a hopper.
Hoppers/appams are popular in Sri Lanka and South India both as breakfast fodder and as street snacks – the very same eating occasions on which many opt to get their dose of dosa. Accordingly, Hoppers will also serve the latter; thin, crisp, proteinous pancakes most commonly from a rice-and-lentil batter but also from innumerable other grains and cereals.
Whether you opt for a hopper or decide on dosa when dining in the street-shack-styled venue, Group Executive Chef Rohit Ghai’s kitchen will dish it up with eye-opening chutneys, ample sambols, and your choice of spicy stew on the side: meat, seafood or veg. Short eats – snack-y staple Sri Lankan street eats – provide perfect sustenance with a post-work pint; so come downing-tools time, it’s a safe bet that hard-toiling Soho-ites will pop to Hoppers en masse for Lion-brand lager and light bites like an oxtail version of stuffed flatbread, veechu roti.
But man, woman, and anyone hungry in London cannot live by hoppers, dosas and short eats alone. Accordingly, Hoppers’ menu will offer a few ‘bigger bite’ options to chew over; focused mostly on rice and roasts like buffalo shank biryani and spit-cooked, spice-lashed Tamil chicken. Spirited types will be cock-a-hoop upon learning of a concise cocktail list which makes much of old-time, good-time alcohols arrack and genever; whilst the abstemious can choose chaas or ginger beer.
With Twitter and Instagram accounts already up and running, and a Tamil culture-referencing iconic character logo designer by film and animation artist Mustashrik and Karam Sethi, London’s appetite for easy access to appams is growing by the day.
Get set for hoppers to get hip.
So that’s what you’ve got to look forward to in autumn. But in the interim, squeeze every drop out of summer – and squeeze in seasonal Indian mangoes at every opportunity. Why not try this Rohit Ghai recipe; shared with Good Things magazine as the perfect picnic pud but equally-excellent on any occasion…
ROHIT GHAI’S MANGO PUDDING
- 400ml full-fat milk
- 40g sugar
- 60g pudding rice, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
- 100g whipping cream
- 350g mango pulp
- 9 tbsp diced fresh mango flesh
- 4 tbsp crushed roasted pistachios, to garnish
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk to the boil. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Drain the soaked pudding rice and add to the milk. Cook until al dente, then add the whipping cream and leave to cool. Stir in the mango pulp and fresh mango.
Spoon into a large serving dish or smaller individual ones, and chill until ready to serve, sprinkling with crushed pistachios just before eating.
TIP: If taking to a picnic, pack into individual lidded containers, with the pistachios packed separately. Keep cool until ready to eat, then garnish with the pistachios and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Rohit Ghai, Group Head Chef for Gymkhana, Trishna, and Verandah in Copenhagen. See gymkhanalondon.com, trishnalondon.com and verandah.dk
- Hoppers opens in October 2015 at 49 Frith Street, London W1D 4SG
- Follow @HoppersLondon on Twitter and Instagram
- To read more about South Indian specialities, click here
- To read about hoppers/appams and many other surprising rice-based dishes, click here
- To read my ultimate guide to dosa, click here
- To read about Indian brunch items, click here
Image credits: Hoppers logo – @Hoppers London, Godamba roti – _ yuichi.sakuraba Foter CC BY-NC, Mango pudding – Alice Griffiths for Good Things magazine