It might have been 37 degrees Celsius last Sunday afternoon but that didn’t stop me from heading over to Hoppumm, the Sri Lankan restaurant that makes its way back to Mumbai in a new avatar. With its lip-smacking, flavour-packed Sri Lankan cuisine, Hoppumm was quick to become a beloved spot when it initially opened in Churchgate in 2018. However, the pandemic conundrum meant that the partners had to shut it down. But its Chef and Founder Lakshit Shetty kept himself busy with catering services for personal and corporate events, something he still pursues with the hope that he’d bring back the restaurant soon, which he did.
Now that the restaurant has opened its doors once again, the quaint space–earlier a delivery kitchen–brings your cherished Hoppumm classics (such as its crowd-favourite hoppers and curries) along with a variety of new creations to explore in a small, sit-down restaurant in Bandra.
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As soon as I got there, Yogesh–an enthusiastic server who’s been with the restaurant since the beginning–welcomed me with a big smile and a chilled Alam Neer. The sweet and spicy drink made in-house with lemon, jaggery and ginger offered me some respite from the heat and re-energised me to dig into the food I was looking forward to. Just before I was about to place an order, I met Chef Lakshit. “I’ve kept some of the old favourites because a lot of my staff suggested what dishes to keep. They have served there for a long time and know what people like,” he told me while taking me through the menu.
He further explained how the lockdown gave him time to calm down and think about how he’d like to bring the restaurant back on its feet. “This time, we’ve kept small portions so people can try more. There is a lot of variety, including a section of the menu that people haven’t tried before. We’ve kept the flavour palette neutral, and our sambols are spiked up and spicy. It’s a family restaurant and there is something for everyone.”
While the chef brings traditional Sri Lankan flavours to the table, he also adds a bit of himself to the menu, which includes Mangalorean food he grew up eating. He admits this has sub-consciously resulted in a nostalgic-driven menu. I spent that afternoon devouring tasty Sri Lankan food from the chef and his team. Here’s how my experience went.
Tantalising Small Plates
I began with the comforting Thatte Idli. “Growing up, I loved eating idli with mutton curry. You can also eat the idli with a veg curry as it soaks up the curry beautifully. A lot of people who’ve visited Hoppumm like to eat the Thatte idli with our Black Mutton Curry, though it has an influence of South India but it’s exciting and adds a different tinge,” Lakshit shared. But the idli was so soft and the podi masala with ghee was so tasty that I preferred eating it as is.
The Hot Butter Squid tossed in garlic (the chef’s take on squid ghee roast he ate as a kid) is a dish you must try. Pro tip: savour it with some fresh, hot Ceylon Parota. The vegetarian alternative to the squid is the Hot Butter Mushroom, giving an equally sublime experience.
Love fried prawns? The Prawn Temperadua marinated with chilli, garlic, and lemon, and then adorned with a special powdered tempering is a snack you won’t stop eating. Another dish you ought to order is the Lankan Stewed Chilli Chicken. It puts the spotlight on chillies, which are stuffed with a spicy mix of minced chicken and Lankan spices, stewed in a rich coconut soup, revealing the depths of Sri Lankan culinary artistry. The vegetarian version includes a paneer mince stuffed in the same chillies.
You can’t leave Hoppum without having its variety of Hoppers and curries that pack a punch. While many diners choose to have the succulent Black Mutton Curry with the Thatte Idli, I enjoyed eating the dish with the Chilli Cheese Hopper. Egg lovers can choose the Egg Chilli Cheese Hopper, a beloved classic.
The rich, creamy textures of Prawn Moilee and Fish Curry paired well with Neer Dosa. Breaking the sweet and tangy flavours that came from the respective curries is Ceylon Chicken Kotu – a flaky paratha with juicy chicken tossed in hot and spicy Ceylon gravy. It was my personal favourite and makes for the perfect munchie to satisfy your last-minute hunger pangs.
Another egg-cellent preparation that also doubles up as the chef’s special is Egg Curry. Usually, the eggs are boiled, then fried to get that coating and then tossed in a curry. But Chef Lakshit poaches the eggs in the curry. “This is something that I learned from my mom. She made it this way. Breaking eggs in a lovely gussy…my mom would tell me to break the first egg at 12 pm, then at 3, 6 and 9 pm. So this is something I’ve done as a kid with my mum. Putting it on the menu is really special and I haven’t told her that it has come into the menu but I’ll mention it to her now,” the chef says.
On A Sweeter Note
Satiate your sweet tooth with the Coconut Milk and Jaggery Hopper, an indulgent dessert that allows two to three people to dig into it. The Sri Lankan Love Cake is a comforting pick for those who like their desserts to be a tad less sweet.
But something that stole the show for me was the classic Vatalappam (a steamed jaggery and coconut milk pudding with a cashew crumble base) which again seeks inspiration from a chef’s childhood memory. “I put this dish on the menu as it reminded me of an egg custard my mum made for me during my exams,” Chef Lakshit reminisces. And it’s this added piece of information that makes me enjoy the dessert a little more than the others.
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Simple and honest food with big and bold Sri Lankan flavours in a charming space, Hoppumm 2.0 is back with a bang! Greeted by a friendly staff who will serve you plates that redefine comfort food, Hoppumm gives you homely vibes. It’s a place where you can let go of all the cutlery and devour unabashedly with your hands without being judged. When a restaurant serves as the perfect pick-me-up or simply brings a smile to your face, you know it’s a place that you wouldn’t mind visiting repeatedly.