Weekends are the best aren’t they? So much opportunity for escaping the mundanity of work, early mornings and routines, that feeling that just maybe the possibilities are endless. It was with these exact thoughts in mind that I made my way via planes, trains and automobiles (ok, not quiet but a train then two DLRs!) from our home in Grove Park to Westfield Stratford for the most brilliant couple of hours I could ever imagine.
My destination at this behemoth of a shopping centre was Levi’s Caribbean Smokehouse with some other bloggers for a morning of listening to the man himself talk about the inspiration behind his phenomenally successful Caribbean cooking as well as seeing some of the most famous dishes prepared and cooked in front of us before the very best of all – getting to sample the dishes!
Arriving shortly before 9.30, I was invited into the restaurant with a very welcome cup of tea and got to spend some time chatting to Levi who is so lovely and down-to-earth, keen to impress upon us that he doesn’t want to forget his roots and is so grateful for everything he’s been able to achieve. After photos and the opportunity to check out the vibrant interiors (of course!) we were led to a bar-style seating area in front of the open kitchen so we could watch the master at work.
Levi’s Caribbean Smokehouse opened in December 2015 offering diners the opportunity to sample some of the incredible flavours, food and colour from his background and culture and he described it as a dream come true after never giving up on the idea that he could bring food from his homeland to a more mainstream audience, with recipes inspired from his childhood learning from his grandmother’s cooking. It’s his passion, work ethic, belief and collaborations that have led him on the journey to a place of success and achievement and not only is it so well-deserved but it means that the likes of you and I can get to try this wonderful food.
A number of dishes were prepared and sampled, including festivals which are a kind of fried dumpling somewhat similar to a doughnut but a little more dense and fried plantain, which I was so dubious about because I’m not a fan of bananas in anything other than their normal fruit form but it tasted incredible, slightly less sweet than a typical banana and dipped in one of Levi’s newest sauces, the very-aptly named ‘Come Back and Get Me’ – YUM!
I don’t think I’m alone though in saying that we were all hopeful and waiting for the show-stoppers – Jerk Chicken and Curry Goat (which we were told must never be called “curried goat” or “goat curry”!) Needless to say I didn’t try the curry goat since of course goats are one of my favourite animals in the entire world ever, and whilst I returned to eating chicken and turkey about 18 months ago for health reasons, I haven’t eaten meat of any other kind for about 12 years now.
Marinading is key to ensure that the meats absorb all of the succulent flavours and there simply is no short-cut. Levi’s Reggae-Reggae sauces for which he became famous via Dragon’s Den were used on one batch of the Jerk Chicken so that we could see how they might enhance the taste but for me the spices, vegetables and so on were the real winners in making the dishes so delicious. The most tender meat teamed up with quintessential rice and accompaniments, it’s safe to say I’m a total convert.
Even better, the morning that we experienced is open to the public each Saturday from 19th March to 16th April with tickets costing just £15. Running from 9.30am to approximately 11-11.30am, the session starts with a meet & greet with Levi complete with breakfast cocktail on arrival, before Levi shows how to perfect some authentic Caribbean dishes. Guests will get to grips with the tastes of the islands and learning more about key Caribbean ingredients, before sampling some of the delicious dishes. If you’d like to book, you can do so here.
I was invited to this event at no charge. All images, words and opinions are my own.