Book review: Hoppers The Cookbook

By Stefan Chomka

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Book review: Hoppers The Cookbook

Related tags Hoppers Sri lanka JKS Restaurants London Cookbook Karan Gokani

Karan Gokani's cookbook captures perfectly the essence of Sri Lankan food.

When Karan Gokani opened the first Hoppers in Soho in 2015 its impact was immediate, with the bijou restaurant on Frith Street lauded for its Sri Lankan and south Indian food that walked the perfect line between rustic and refined. Here was a modern restaurant that was stylish and bang on trend serving a menu of elevated street food at non central London prices. The restaurant was - and still is – fun, energetic and full of character, much like Gokani himself.

Seven years on and Hoppers now operates three restaurants, having added Marylebone and King’s Cross to its stable, and it now also has a book of its name where Gokani has lifted the lid on the secrets of Hoppers’ brilliant food. And, just like the restaurants, the book is full of character, quirks and an attention to detail that will likely make it an instant hit.

The first thing that is striking about Hoppers The Cookbook​ is its size. Weighing in at more than 350 pages it’s a hefty book considering the relatively tight menu served at the restaurants. Space is given over to the larder aspect of Hoppers’ dishes before the book kicks off properly with a chapter on short eats and snacks that covers everything from its peerless mutton rolls to tuna cutlets, mackerel buns, goat roti, and hot buttered squid – with a pleasing subcategory of devilled dishes tacked on at the end. This is then followed by chapters on rice and breads, hoppers, sambols, mallungs, chutneys and pickles; fries, curries and everything in between; grills, roasts, barbecue and more before desserts, drinks and garnishes are also given their dues.

But Gokani’s book is more than just a collection of dishes from his restaurants. Within its pages he has managed to capture the warmth of Sri Lankan hospitality, the vibrancy and varied nature of its cuisine and also the essence of what make him and his team at Hoppers tick. Hoppers The Cookbook​ is not just a showcase for Sri Lankan food but also for his restaurants and its understanding of hospitality, not only does it make you want to try the recipes, it also makes you want to make a reservation.

In their praise of the book, Gokani is not only described as a “supremely talented” chef in the words of Jose Pizarro but also as one of the “best cooks I have ever encountered” according to restaurant reviewer Fay Maschler. Two Michelin-starred chef Andrew Wong describes him thus: “Karan is undoubtedly one of the most talented cooks I have ever met.” It is Gokani’s ability and enthusiasm for cooking that marks him out, and which also runs through the book’s pages.

Last word to goes to Yotam Ottolenghi, who says in his praise of the book: “How lucky are we to have Hoppers! First the restaurants, now the book”. It’s a sentiment we very much endorse.

Hoppers The Cookbook
Karan Gokani
Number of pages: 352
Standout dish: omelette curry
Publisher and price: Hardie Grant Quadrille, £30 

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