I’ve been a fan of Levi Roots since his breakout performance on Dragons’ Den that shot him into the public eye. Since then, he has had success with his Reggae Reggae Sauce and also partnerships with Bird’s Eye, Domino’s Pizza, crisps, nuts and a line of drinks.
Levi Roots Caribbean Smokehouse – NOW CLOSED
He opened his eponymous “Rasta-raunt” at Westfield Stratford in 2015. The shopping centre now has a number of other food outlets both inside and out and Stratford, with the Olympic Park and the London Stadium, is now looking to become more of a destination after the success of London 2012 Olympics. Some big names like the British Council, TfL, Cancer Research UK and others are also moving to the area.
The week before I went to Levi Roots I was at the launch of Moxy Hotels in Stratford where I got a little bit drunk, but I was game to head back to Stratford.
Walking to the restaurant I encountered an impromptu flashmob outside Stratford station with a man in a Royal Mail hi-vis jacket and a female MC rapping along. A drunk man also joined in and showed off his moves. View a clip of possibly the weirdest thing I’ve seen here.
The restaurant itself is just a short walk from the station, right by one of the Westfield exits and close to a number of other bars, restaurants and shops.
There is outside seating available but as I wasn’t looking for a frozen meal I opted for something more toasty. I’d roped Mo in, my mate who you may remember from the trip to Rio. We got one of the booth seats and jumped straight into the drinks menu.
As well as a selection of beers, wines and soft drinks, there is a nice selection of both cheaper and more premium cocktails. Fresh smoothies or Levi’s Smoodies are made on site and you can also add a touch of rum to them.
We’d missed happy hour, but on Monday to Thursday between 3pm and 6pm you can get 2-4-1 on the Cocktails, Smoodies and Coolers (excluding the Premium Cocktails).
Mo went for the Sorrel Surprise. Sorrel is a plant sometimes described as the Jamaican hibiscus which has health benefits including aiding digestion and improving blood pressure. I won’t spoil the surprise but it comes with a little something extra.
I ordered a Jamaican Mule which was Levi’s take on the Moscow Mule with Jamaican Rum, Ginger Beer and a kick of lime.
We also tried the White Sands which was a coconut rum and lychee juice cocktail – it had a real fruity vibe.
Pitchers of some of the cocktails are also available if you’re out for a big group night out.
For our starters, we decided on Levi’s Fried Chic and Jerk Chicken Wings to share.
The fried chicken was a few giant chicken thighs marinated in a really light jerk buttermilk with a sweet chilli dip. It was really flavoursome and not too greasy. The wings were a BBQ style jerk and available in portions of five, ten or fifteen.
There are about eight starters to choose from and options like creamy mushrooms or halloumi for vegetarians, as well as some gluten-free choices. There are also platters available for those who want to try a bit of everything – something for everyone.
For the main courses, you have a choice of:
- One Pot dishes
- Jerk chicken – with your preferred chicken pieces (with bones or boneless)
- Other foods from the smoker
- Sea food
- Sharing platters
- “Beach Food”
All come with an accompaniment including plain or chilli rotis (like flatbreads), plain rice or rice and peas, Caribbean Slaw, skin-on fries, sweet potatoes or salad.
Mo had the Trench Town Chicken Burger and I had the Curry Goat which is a classic Jamaican dish, admittedly one I’ve eaten a few times but not made myself before.
You can add extra side dishes like Mac & Cheese, plantain, corn, fried dumplings and of course the standard Reggae Reggae Sauces. I added to our bumper meal with some festivals which are like long, sweet dumplings that are fried or sometimes baked.
It was all super flavoursome as expected and not watered down like some Caribbean restaurant chains can be. Portions were generous and it’s a great place to go to order a few dishes to try a bit of each. The jerk chicken allows you to choose from mild, medium and hot spice and you can also top up with extra sauces on the table as you wish.
The meat is seasoned and marinated for up to 48 hours before being jerk smoked in a way that mimics a fire pit.
If you look online there are also separate menus with Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free options and those following an Ital lifestyle.
We’d overdone it a bit and cleaned our plates, which meant we didn’t have room for the puddings on the menu. You have a decent selection including twists on desserts like:
- Rum Cake
- Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- Mango & Coconut Cheesecake
- And some cool ice-creams and sorbets
If you’ve ever had a Caribbean takeaway before, you also know that availability of dishes and customer service can be lacking sometimes. Staff here were very friendly and welcoming and able to explain any of the dishes if you’re unsure what they are.
Levi has tried to create a restaurant that showcases the food of all the Caribbean islands and not just one that serves Jamaican food. He’s apparently heavily involved in the restaurant and menu creation and even pops in most weeks.
The restaurant has full table service and as well as a small bar area if you just want a drink. The food is all made fresh on-site in an open kitchen area so you can see the food being cooked by the chefs on the grills.
Music was a mix of traditional reggae and also some newer chart music. I even heard a bit of J Hus who I’d heard in concert a few weeks before. Apparently the restaurant can get quite busy on West Ham match days but I wouldn’t let that put you off!
Monday night was a great time to head down as it wasn’t too busy but still had a good atmosphere and a bit of a buzz. A nice touch was the interior decor and photography hung on the walls. On the way to the toilets upstairs there are also signs and even a voiceover from Levi Roots with a bit of a lesson in speaking Jamaican patois.
A Christmas party menu is also available for the next few weeks. You can download the Caribbean Smokehouse App which allows you to queue-jump, pay your bill and leave reviews and you can also order on Deliveroo or UberEats if you’re in range.
If I’d gone a few weeks later I could have got involved in the second birthday celebrations for the restaurant but I’ll definitely be back again even if to just try the desserts!
The restaurant sadly closed for good on 25 June 2019.