What: The biggest site to date for the JKS-owned, subcontinental restaurant group Hoppers.
Who: Hoppers was founded by Karan Gokani, his wife Sunaina Sethi, and her brothers Jyotin and Karam (the three siblings respectively representing the J, K and S of parent company JKS Restaurants). Born out of a conversation between Karan and Karam, who wanted to create a restaurant concept that took inspiration from both Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine, Hoppers launched its first site on Firth Street in Soho in 2015, and was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in the 2017 Guide, which it continues to retain. In 2017, the group also opened a second location in Marylebone.
The food: While technically inspired by both South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, it’s the latter that Hoppers has arguably become more widely associated, with many Tamil and Sinhalese dishes featuring on the noticeably larger menu. Gokani estimates that, in total, about 70% of the dishes served at King’s Cross are new. This includes a section dedicated to larger sharing plates such as jumbo-sized prawns barbecued with black pepper and curry leaves (£19.50); sizzling beef poriyal (£12.50); and mackerel grilled with chukka butter (£17). Other new dishes to feature on the menu, meanwhile, include a swimmer crab curry (£12.50), which Gokani tells BigHospitality they have been working on bringing to Hoppers for a number of years, and is made using fresh crab sourced directly from Sri Lanka.
The vibe: Holding 130 covers across its dining room, bar and terrace, King’s Cross is three times the size of the original Hoppers restaurant in Soho. It’s a strikingly bright and colourful space that’s taken two years to bring to fruition (the site first came up back in 2018). The interior design – meticulously overseen by Gokani and Karam Sethi – takes its cues from landmarks found along the coastal route between the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and the historical Dutch town of Galle, and comes complete with terracotta-toned floors and cast iron-framed glass lanterns. At the fore is a huge, iron-clad concrete bar with a dedicated shelf of spirits including Colombo No. 7 gin, and Ceylon arrack (a traditional Sri Lankan spirit distilled from coconut palm toddy, the bottles for which are subsequently repurposed by the restaurant to serve tap water in). Adorning the walls are an assortment of dramatic, hand-crafted wooden masks sourced directly from Sri Lanka by Gokani during his travels to Colombo, Hikkaduwa, and Galle. And painted onto the ceiling is a selection of artistic designs inspired by those found in the Coats of Arms Bar at Jetwing’s famous Lighthouse hotel on the Galle seafront.
And another thing: The launch of Hoppers’ King’s Cross site follows hot on the heels of the opening of Kolamba, and Paradise, and marks the next stage in the lesser known subcontinental cuisine’s movement into prime London territory.
Unit 3, 4 Pancras Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AG
To read more on the growth of the capital’s Sri Lankan restaurant scene, pick up the March issue of Restaurant magazine, the leading title for the UK's restaurant industry. For features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the restaurant sector, subscribe to Restaurant magazine here.