Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse – Stratford, WestfieldHALAL STATUS Non-Halal beef.
We were certainly looking forward to Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse in Stratford’s Westfield, and for obvious reasons too given the larger-than-life character that is the man himself (real name Keith Graham).
If you haven’t heard of Levi Roots, then he only happens to be the one who went into the ferocious Dragons’ Den with his Reggae Reggae sauce business proposal, and walked out with the same swagger he went in with having secured an investment worth £50,000 from Dragons Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.
And the place itself certainly reflects the same confidence, bravado and Caribbean colour and flair displayed by the British-Jamaican celebrity himself – and that’s only from the outside.
The real party begins on entering where you’re hit with a cacophony of sounds ranging from the Caribbean music blaring throughout the large 120 seater restaurant (160 if you include the outside), to the joyful chattering and laughter of the diners on a packed out evening.
Arguably, the best place to sit, and where we were comfortably housed for the majority of the time (see Summary below for more info), is the wooden hut with two large fans affixed to the corrugated metal ceiling, and plenty of bulbed lighting wired across overhead.
Then there’s the option of two sectioned boothes in the middle along with five at the far end.
Although the drinks bar is situated parallel to said wooden hut, it’s small enough to remain adequately discreet.
And if you do happen to visit the loos, then not only is it a welcome relief (no pun intended) from all the hubbub downstairs, but also a pleasant walk past some Levi Roots-inspired decor accompanied by a pre-recorded track laying down some words of wisdom, if you could call it that, from the fella himself.
In spite of the pineapple coming through well enough, the Smoke House Colada was essentially watery with sugar added to it giving it an almost artificial taste.
The Roots & Spice was a well balanced drink with a touch of spice that was nicely tempered by the sweetness of the cinnamon. With a dollop of ice cream on top, this had a peculiar consistency to it – thick, yet icy and watery in almost equal measure.
Most certainly a summer beverage!
And for those who go by the opinion of nutmeg being Haram, please note that this was lightly grated over the top.
Easily the thickest of the three, the dominant flavour in this Peach Malba was raspberry. However, it was the poor quality of the silky syrup at the bottom that let this down quite badly.
These lightly spiced Bajan fish cakes were beautifully cripsy on the outside while being soft and fluffy on the in. The heat from the scotch bonnets was discernable, but not so much as to overpower the delicate flavours of the fleshy salt fish.
Equally good, however, was the deliciously creamy ‘come-get-me’ jerk sauce accompanying this with a fruity sweet and spicy kick to it.
We could have easily had a large bowl full of these.
As for Jamaica’s national dish – Ackee & Saltfish – then we were expecting nothing less than to be left, at the very least, satisfied.
Sadly, this left us less than impressed.
Some decent flavours given the saltiness of the fish and the subtle earthy aftertaste of the Ackee; but in the end, the whole thing was fairly dry.
1 POT - 1 LOVE
The meat in this Curry Goat was soft and fatty as it ought to be.
The fragrant sauce was full of flavour and thoroughly well spiced, while the potatoes soft.
Had with the traditional Peas & Rice, the entire dish was quite satisfying.
The rice – soft and perfectly cooked – was just spicy enough to make it an enjoyable little bite in and of itself.
The roti, which can be upgraded to a chilli version for an additional quid, was well cooked, though perhaps dusted with a little too much flour for our liking.
Nonetheless, good for scooping up all that tasty sauce at the end.
JERK PIT STYLE
Felt like we were chewing on plaster; and the leg wasn’t any better either, which is saying something.
As for the much touted jerk sauce that’s smokehouse, then it was simply restricted to being, at best, mildly spicy which needed a twist of the lemon to cut through the slightly bitter aftertaste.
In the end, we were left wondering where that Carribean kick went?
What’s the points of promoting chicken that’s been “corn-fed” and “smoked in our real-wood burning smoker, caramelised on our jerk pitsmoker, before being caramelised on a jerk pit”, when it’s being cooked this badly? Inexcusable!
Hah; and then we have the opposite end of the spectrum, at least in terms of cooking, with this beautifully steamed whole Sea Bass, presented as “the ultimate Hellshire, Kingston Beach experience”, that practically fell off the bone.
Never been to Kingston Beach ourselves, but if the curry sauce in which the fish and condiments-with-a-nice-bite swam is as vapid as this, then we might consider elsewhere. Just the mere hint of curry taste… and that’s that!
This relatively moist Ginger & Pecan Brownie cake had a slice of spicy pineapple on top with nicely charred edges, which itself was topped with a scoop of subtle coconut ice cream.
On the whole, a decent dessert, with the soft and chewy pineapple’s spiciness being pleasantly countered by the coolness of the ice cream.
Again served with coconut ice cream, this Passion Fruit Meringue was a strange one. Rather than enjoying the familiar crunch and chewiness of a well made meringue, this one just disintegrated into a soft powdery passion fruit mixture.
And while the flavour combo played well between the mango puree and the passion fruit, the sameness of it all begged for something additional to offset all that sweetness.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED ACCESS
You can't help but be lifted by the jolly party atmosphere of the place. In that sense, the restaurant succeeds in capturing that Caribbean style vibe the Islands are famous for.
Sadly, however, the food, though extremely promising to read on menu, simply doesn't do justice to the setup of the place. And the worst part of it all is that that which essentially defines the place, i.e. the Reggae Reggae sauce and the chicken, was, frankly speaking, poor.
We were even asked to inconveniently vacate the table we were sat at for the majority of our visit (without any prior notice) to an adjacent one just to make room for a large, rowdy group celebrating a birthday!
Over all, a disappointing evening made worse by the fact that we'd missed Mr Roots by three hours!
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