Lately, Sri Lanka is on our mind for a variety of reasons. Mumbai has woken up to visa on arrival to the popular country and as if that wasn’t enough, we now have easy access to appams and stews with not one but two outlets of Hoppumm. Conceptualised and run by siblings Sahil and Jai Wadhwa along with co-partner and chef Lakshit Shetty, Hoppumm debuted its second outlet at Churchgate after the popularity the space enjoyed in the leafy environs of Bandra. Everything about Hoppumm is whimsical, quirky, and has that island-chic vibe. The interiors are awash with tropical prints, hand-painted palm leaves adorning the walls, and wooden masks from Sri Lanka. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow for loads of sunshine while the bonsai plants add a dash of green to the otherwise quaint outlet.
The start to the Hoppumm experience began with a refreshing pineapple drink with a splash of basil. The watermelon drink spiked with jalapeño is another tantalizing option. The humble nimbu pani gets a makeover with some help from lemon, ginger, and a pinch of pink salt. But I sorely miss the thembili – bright orange king coconuts. My most recurrent memory of my visit to the island nation is being welcomed with a chilled king coconut dressed with a straw and a few flowers.
The Churchgate outlet of Hoppumm has all the original favourites (read fluffy hoppers or appams and curries) along with a range of starters. The Polos Rolls are a good way to ease into a Sri Lankan feast. Shaped like the Maharashtrian sweetmeat karanji, these moon-shaped flour shells are stuffed with baby jackfruit curry and served with Moju and Kochichi Mayo Dip. Simply delicious. Another addictive indulgence is the Isso Vadei. I have had these nuclear orange, spicy prawn and lentil cakes on the bustling seafront streets of Galle in Colombo. The ones at Hoppumm are not as fiery but hugely satisfying. The accompanying garlic, curry leaf and cashew dip takes it from mundane to magical. Pol Roti, the quintessential Sri Lankan breakfast makes a special appearance on the menu. Here the flatbreads come riding with a selection of butters flavoured like curry leaf, murukku, and Pol Sambol.
The stars of the menu still remain the hoppers. There are three variants – plain, spinach, and multigrain. The hoppers come groaning with a curry (Cantaloupe Prawn Curry, Black Mutton Curry, Sri Lankan Chicken Curry, Prawn Moilee, Chicken Stew, Mutton Pepper Fry) and with accompaniments like seeni sambol, a sweet and spicy caramelized onion relish and the chutney of the month. The vegetarian options include Ceylon Mushroom Curry, Beetroot Curry, Sri Lankan Veg Curry, and a tangy Pineapple Curry. If you’re feeling very decadent ask for a whole egg on top. They also serve idiyappams – little nests of steamed rice flour noodles that are perfect to be doused with gently spiced coconut gravy. This is comfort food at its best for those who love sublime Southern flavours.
The hoppers are excellent but my favourite is the Kothu roti, another Sri Lankan icon. This dish of shredded roti mixed up with meat, vegetables, spices and sauces could become your late night snack after a stint of partying or a breakfast staple. It’s not uncommon to see chefs in Sri Lanka banging and chopping the ingredients together as though they work in a Japanese teppanyaki bar. It’s a serious carb fest that almost demands a hangover to go with it.
Desserts are not Hoppumm’s strong points. The Vathalappam, a kind of custard pudding suffused with the creaminess of coconut and the sweetness of jaggery is an acquired taste which sadly I haven’t acquired. Another dessert of a hopper filled with cream cheese, caramel and fresh fruits is simple but did not manage to hit the right spot. My favourite way to end this amazing feast would be to include a drizzle of Kithul Treacle, a smoky, amber-coloured sweetener that could be considered Sri Lanka’s answer to maple syrup. But for now, we good with the range of homemade ice creams – coconut, pineapple, jackfruit that give you a taste of the island and complement the succulent fare.
Where: 5, Cambata Building, Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate, Mumbai.
Tel: +91 22 2288 6012
Opening Hours: 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm, closed on Mondays
Recommended dishes: Isso Vadei, hoppers and string hoppers with Meen Moilee, Black Mutton Curry, Cantaloupe Prawn Curry and homemade ice creams.
Price for two: Rs 2,000
Noise Levels: Conversation friendly
Service: Cordial and attentive
All images: Courtesy Hoppumm