I was fortunate enough last week to be invited by The Food Sauce to Levi Roots’ ‘rastarant’ in Westfield Stratford, to eat my way through the menu, meet the man himself and get an insight into the differences between Levi’s venues and other Caribbean places. He was so lovely, and the food was immense – a pretty good evening all round.
Levi Roots has been in London since he was 9, so the menu is very much a blend of traditional Caribbean food and London influences. He calls is ‘Kingston meets Brixton’, which works for me. It’s been 10 years since Dragon’s Den when Levi kicked off his Reggae Reggae sauce empire, and 1 year since the restaurant opened.
He chatted to us about why there are so many spices used in Caribbean cooking – because lack of refrigeration in poor areas of the Caribbean (so most of it) meant food, especially meat, had a short shelf life. Covering everything in salt, spices and heavy marinades kept things fresh, and it why Caribbean classics are so punchy and packed with flavour. This is also the reason chicken is a lot drier in Caribbean countries – it’s often overcooked to make sure it’s safe, and why Caribbeans in the UK often find meat to be underdone.
As a group we pretty much got through most of the menu.. we kicked off with some starters from the ‘Street Food’ section (all £5.50) including creamy jerk mushrooms, ackee and saltfish and Bajan fishcakes – these were my favourite, and reminded me of St Lucia.
For mains (£9-12 ish) we mostly had various cuts of meat from the on-site jerk pit, and all the bits I tried were delicious. You can choose from Reggae-glazed, simply smoked or smokehouse jerk, which are all different styles of jerk spices. I loved how they’re not scared of pandering too much to Western palates – some of those dishes are super hot.
The cocktail menu is designed by Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell – I only had the rum punch but it was delightful, really fruity but definitely still wakes you up a bit with the rum. Lovely!
I finished off with a chilli and pineapple upside down cake – unnecessary but delicious. It’s super sweet, but the chilli balances it. Perfect with their coconut ice cream!
In terms of vibe, the music is relaxed reggae, you can learn some Jamaican patois while you’re sitting on the loo. There is (deliberately) no Bob Marley or Jamaican flags around the place – ‘Jamaica is about more than that’. Hear hear.
Levi’s other passion is music, and they have live artists in the restaurant regularly. The December dates are 4th, 11th and 18th, have a look at the website for more info.