66 Cricklewood Broadway
020 8208 2658
Gourmand writes: With no staff in sight, we edged towards the back of the restaurant. Surely somebody worked at Lihiniya? Eventually, a confused-looking woman emerged from the kitchen.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"We'd like to order food, please."
"Khana Indian restaurant is next door."
It's never a good sign when a restaurateur assumes you've gone to the wrong place.
"No, we don't want Indian food. We want Sri Lankan food."
"Not now. We're about to go out"
It was 7pm on a Saturday. There was a pause.
"What food do you want?"
"Hoppers, string hoppers," I replied.
"OK, no problem," she said, gesturing towards a table.
I hope I'm not making our host sound unpleasant. She was polite and sweet, but it still felt like we'd unwittingly stumbled into her private residence. Unopened envelopes and crumpled napkins sat on the tables and at the back of the restaurant there were a couple of chairs, a computer and a load of videos. This was their living room.
Twenty minutes later a large tray of food arrived. String hoppers (rice noodle pancakes), egg hoppers (bowl-shaped rice flour pancakes cooked with an egg), coconut and seeni (sweet onion) sambols, and lamb and chicken curries. The meat wasn't fantastic, but for £5 each it was a bargain.
"I thought you had the wrong restaurant," our hostess chuckled as we settled the meagre bill.
"No, we like Sri Lankan food," I replied, hoping Gormless wouldn't reveal we had to visit Lihiniya as it was the next restaurant on the street.
Oh, Lihiniya. Insecure, confused Lihiniya. Here's some advice from the Gullets lads. Design a menu. Put up a new sign or two. Don't be so scared of customers. Have some self-belief. Look deep inside yourself and you'll find an real-life restaurant just bursting to get out. You can do it. We know you can.
I have been to a Hopper Night once before. It was a high concept mishmash of Easy Rider (starring Dennis Hopper), space hoppers and pogo sticks. This one was all about the pancake or noodle-style bases we were invited to combine with curry and other dishes into a layered meal. I enjoyed ripping fragments from my egg hopper and pinching chicken bits with them.