Renegade Sri Lankan shop makes a permanent home at the Makers Dozen!
Darlinghurst’s loss is Darling Square’s gain!- As the team from Hopper Kadé re-locates to The Exchange, bringing some much needed variety to this part of town! Once again trying to spy free tables at the new restaurants along Little Hay Street, we lucked-out again on trying Filo food at Rey’s Place – an almost hole-in-the-wall packed out with happy diners. So we find ourselves back in The Exchange ‘Makers Dozen’ food hall, and as Hopper Kadé were narrowly nudged out by Fishbowl who scored our patronage yesterday, thus it was natural for us to give Hopper Kadé a go today.
The Hopper Kadé menu essentially gave patrons 3 options- Stuffed Roti (from $12.00), Kadé Bowls (from $14.00), or Hopper Boxes (from $18.00) – all three choices came in either Chicken, Beef, or Split Pea and Potato Dahl.
We elected the Beef Stuffed Roti ($15.00) and a Chicken Hopper Box ($20.00). You can also elect sides, like smaller side servings of curry ($3-7), an egg ($3.00), yoghurt dip ($2.00) etc. But after already dropping $20 on a Hopper Box for one, it was unlikely that we’d allow them to sting us for another $7 or $2 for sides, as it was already quite an exxy proposition for a food-court fast-food lunch.
So after making our order and leaving our name with the staff, we found ourselves some seats in their reserved seating area for Hopper patrons- looking out to the ‘Pump House’. Table water was a self-service affair and in less than 10 minutes our name was called and we grabbed our tray and box of food and brought it back to our table.
The Hopper Box came in a cardboard bento-like box tray.
At first we didn’t know what to expect as we were first timers to the concept of a Hopper, for that matter, this was our first Sri Lankan meal! What we received were two empty crepe shells, shaped like a bowl, and you scoop your ingredients (all 5 items) into your edible bowl. In went the Colombo chicken curry, string hoppers in turmeric and coconut gravy, Kadé slaw, fresh pickle, coriander, and sambols.
And trying my best to hold everything together, I looked for the best corner to take my first bite. OMG! It was so tasty- the flavoursome spices and the one-chilli kick was the first thing my tastebuds registered, then it was the texture from the coconut sambol, the substantialness from the slow-cooked chicken, and my wife and I both particularly enjoyed the string hoppers (which reminded us of vermicelli rice noodles). But the stand-out of the hopper experience was the crepe, it was sour (later we found out that it was made from sour dough), and it was soft, like eating thin marshmallows! Really good! If you’ve never tried a Hopper box before, you must, you really must!
However in comparison, the Beef Stuffed Roti was quite bland. Perhaps when we were given the option to include chilli and coriander, we passed on the extra chilli and just opted for the coriander- and perhaps there was our mistake. But the beef itself was dry and wasn’t served with a gravy which you’d expect from a curry. Although it was quite filling even after only one half, it didn’t compare to its Hopper counterpart. According to the menu we had Beruwala beef, fragrant rice, Kadé slaw, coconut sambol, and fresh pickles, wrapped in a buttery roti.
Our end verdict? 3.5 from 5 (2.5 from 3 for Food (although the Roti was similar to a café wrap, and the Hopper reminded us of a Mexican burrito- but the Sri Lankan flavours and that awesome sour dough crepe made it a step above any café wrap or Guzman-y-Gomez burrito we’ve ever had!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were polite and at the end they even came around to us to ask us how we found the meal and collected our trash- premium food hall service there!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (it was nice and airy, pot plants to give the place some greenery, although music throughout The Exchange was turned right down today); and 0 from 1.0 for Value for Money (I had previously mentioned that I was impressed with Makers Dozen, although it was a premium food court but their prices were still on-par with other suburban food courts- however $20 for a pretty stock standard single serving and a total of $35 for 2 (before drinks)? That was too exy in our opinion for food-court food)).
In conclusion, we’ve now tried 33.3% of the dozen shops within Makers Dozen (yesterday we had a bubble tea from Bubble Nini Tea), and we’re still impressed by the rag-tag band of restaurateurs they’ve managed to bring together to form the ‘Dirty Dozen’ of Darling Square! Although on paper the overall score for Hopper Kadé may seem a little low, but we enjoyed our first Sri Lankan experience! And we’d certainly consider coming back to the Kadé for that tasty sour dough crepe again!
Hopper Kadé- Sunday 25 August (3.5 Stars).
Makers Dozen Food Hall, the Exchange Building, 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket
Mon-Sun 11am – 11pm