Waiting for things: what a quaint idea. Why wait, when you can have anything your heart desires this evening with same-day Amazon Prime delivery, cancel any Ubers dares be more than 4 minutes away? Twenty-somethings apparently no longer bother with a GP because waiting a week for a doctor's appointment feels laughably retro. Look, I'm not saying this impatience is good. It is simply the millennial malady. And so I am through with queuing for food. I will not stand twitching in the drizzle, using up my precious reserves of small talk ("hey, how about that coronavirus, huh?"), and I don't want to take a buzzer and go to the crap pub next door for 50 minutes only for it to sizzle into action just as we’ve ordered fresh pints. I get the reason for no reservations: restaurants don't lose money with no-shows, you don't have to remember to book in advance, it's 'fair'. But I don't care about 'fair'. I am in militant control of my Google Calendar and I want to be rewarded for having planned all my social interactions a month in advance precisely so I don't have to stand in the icy gale howling around London Bridge debating whether it's worth waiting two hours for a plate of cacio e pepe.
For a brief excitable period when I first moved to London I did queue, which is why I have been to Bao, once, and Padella, once, and the first Hoppers, once. The one-night stand with the latter was particularly bittersweet: after 90 minutes of queuing, I remember the most extraordinary Sri Lankan feast - the eponymous bowl-shaped rice and coconut pancakes, a beautiful jellyish bone marrow curry with roti, various face-melting chilli things. Glorious. But, not wait for 90 minutes glorious because literally nowhere ever is. Delayed gratification doesn't exist at 8.30pm on a Saturday night when all I've had since lunch is two gritty margaritas in the only nearby bar without its own 45 minute wait.
So thank you, thank you, to the new Hoppers in King's Cross which takes reservations, so you can plan to be face first in a bowl of the crab kari, spattered with spicy onion sauce, chunks of crustacean swimming gleefully in your hair, at a precise time of your choosing.
We start with mussel hodi and string hoppers, a pile of fat briny mussels and crunchy samphire in a puddle of sweet coconut-creamy turmeric-yellow sauce, and we then fight over the squidgy mass of rice noodles underneath, lushly soaked in all of the above. There's a further heated scrabble for the crispy burnt bits underneath the sizzling beef poriyal, an Indo-Chinese inspired dish that would traditionally use mutton but here swaps in chunks of beautifully tender short rib in a sticky, sizzling sludge of onion and garlic and chilli, all cut through with pretty little pink pearl onion petals with cabbage leaves underneath again to catch all the goodness. There is an actual argument over that crab kari (Tamil for curry) when, in my enthusiastic but extremely amateur claw-cracking, I send sauce and fishy bits flying over both of us. Luckily there is a madly generous amount of crab, squatting in another divine sludge of spiced onions and garlic and good things, with a frilly hopper alongside to tear and dip, so that even my splattering and inadequate dissection leaves us with barely enough room for the most beautiful, beautiful piece of grilled mackerel, smothered in another of those beautifully balanced sweet-savoury-umami-plate-licking sauces.
Basically, it’s all lovely, from the super enthusiastic service to the tiled bar with cutesy tchotkes where you can have a coconut-infused ale or a white ruby punch with basil seeds (looks like frogspawn, tastes delicious) beforehand, if you are choosing to delay the start of your meal. Although not if you don't want to. Because, did I mention, at this Hoppers, you can book?
Meal for 2: £95
Hoppers Kings Cross
4 Pancras Square, N1C 4AG
Congratulate yourself on having completed your meal in a timely, non-delayed fashion with a drop of natty Sicilian orange at The Drop (thedropwinebar.co.uk)