Lankan Hoppers land in London | Sunday Observer

Lankan Hoppers land in London

17 November, 2019

Sri Lanka through numerous avenues, has grabbed the attention of international focus, ranging from culinary to apparel, to name a few. Under the category of culinary, the island seems to have impressed exceedingly well, for an eatery to be named after its popular food and have it in its menu, at home away from home for the Lankan expatriates. Hoppers, a family-run eatery in Central London, by an Indian family caters to one-and-all.

Recently, Karan and his team, including James Stevenson, a mixologist master, were at the refurbished and reopened, Jetwing Lighthouse Galle, finding the modus-operandi to add value to their menu.

For Karan Gokani, Director of JKS, a Mumbai-based resident, now in London, Lankan cuisine is more than a liking. It’s an inspiration, which is being served in the UK.

“There is a lot of similarity between the Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine. But, at the same time, they are quite unique,” he says in his opening remarks to the Sunday Observer. Today, the South Indian variety too, is giving company to its neighbour Sri Lanka, delighting its customers. Hopper and Dosa are at the heart of the menu. The cocktail list at Hoppers focuses on Genever and Arrack, and a selection of Sri Lankan soft drinks.

The family-found business is now a decade old and counting.

“Why we were on our own, sans a partner or a creative partner of that country (Sri Lanka) is because, we are confident that we know Sri Lankan food well as well as her people,” Gokani said.

Why Hoppers?

“It’s a name, my brother-in-law came up with. We were discussing a name while studying the menu which had hopper in it,” he said.

He feels, Hopper is a really cool name. “We started using it as a working title. Very catchy and western,” Karan discloses how the shop was named Hoppers. Sri Lanka had entered the scene through Karan’s university friends and his brother-in-law’s connections. “We are known for our foods, but what people don’t realize is we do some amazing Sri Lankan favoured and inspired drinks too,” he says about his menu.

Karan gathered the confidence to offer the island’s variety through his past ten visits to the island. This time, courtesy Hiran Cooray, Chairman Jetwing Hotels, now a near and dear friend, the London restauranter has got a feel of Jaffna, as well.

He says the chairman had insisted he would take him to the Northern tip. “Hiran Cooray had said, ‘Look, I want to take you to Jaffna’. That is one place; I always wanted to go to.”

Returning from Jaffna he stopped in Negombo for two- days and did some crab fishing. They then visited the Coats of Arms Bar, one of the same new-look hotels.

Karan claims, it’s an iconic place. “We love this place and are inspired by it, and thought it would be amazing to do some drinks” Seizing the opportunity, James, the group bar manager started making four fabulous Sri Lankan flavoured drinks, with a pinch of Lankan arrack. In no time, the bar was buzzing with everyone falling for it.

Seeing the instant hit of their drinks, his team has decided to launch these drinks, many miles away, in London.

Talking about the challenges, Karan divulges, initially, it was to get the right produce.

“To get food at the right time, with the right freshness, was a challenge. We haven’t got the same, herbs, such as, gotukola, mukunuvenna or even fresh coconuts. Spices are easier to get. But, I wish I could get the Negombo mud crab, more easily and affordably,” he walked us through the challenges.

Entering and expanding

However, Karan does not seem to be having any blueprint to expand his business to Asian counties.

“I’ll keep coming back here. I would love to have more collaboration with friends. They are friends; not just brands or partners,”

Karan says extending and entering an untouched territory does not revolve solely around recipes. “The restaurant is much more than that. It has a soul, it needs human-beings, it needs you,” All his family is present in London, for the family-run business. Their sense of commitment goes the distance of a family member visiting and eating, at any of their network of restaurants daily.

Status-quo of Hoppers

“It’s doing well,” he says of his eatery.

Hoppers has been a winner, thus far. “It’s a great compliment for me and the team. Because, there is nothing like the locals saying it reminds them of their food at home.”

“Most of them are actually non-Indians. We do have a lot of non-Asian restaurants,” he says.

JKS at present has 15 restaurants, comprising, three Indian restaurants, two Sri Lankan and South Indian, and the rest Spanish, British, and Taiwanese.