Rhythm Kitchen, run by chef and local resident Delroy Dixon and business partner Jorg Roth, aims to bring Caribbean Jerk food to the mainstream market.
The restaurant will form part of one of Westfield Stratford’s food courts, alongside restaurants such as Pho, with seating for over 1,000 people in the communal seating area.
Employing 28 people so far, the restaurant will serve up Dixon’s own receipes for dishes such as Lamb Curry, Sunshine Salad and Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas, with meal deal prices ranging from £6.80 for a Quarter Jerk Chicken meal to £19.90 for a family meal.
Key to the menu offering is the idea that there are enough calorie controlled options that customers can be healthy if they want to, without being exclusively low-calorie, Roth told BigHospitality this morning.
“All our meat is steam cooked and then brought to a sizzle on the barbecue, so none of the meat is fried,” he said. “So our signature dish, chicken, rice and peas is quite healthy. But if you want to come and eat fried plantain then you can do that too.”
The partners have employed a head chef to run the kitchen, but it is Dixon who has developed the menu, and he will be in the kitchen initially in a supervisory role when the restaurant opens on 13 September.
Dixon, who worked with Roth in television making documentaries until three years ago, started his working life as a hotel chef and had “always dreamed” of opening his own Carribean restaurant, Roth said. The opportunity arose last year when Westfield announced it was looking for a Caribbean licence for the new Stratford shopping centre, and Dixon and Roth leapt at the opportunity to launch their restaurant concept in a location that would see high footfall.
Roth said the main aim of the restaurant was to “put Caribbean food on the map” for a the first time. “We’d like to really make it accessible to a wider audience, and show them that it is healthy, contemporary and fun.”
The partners would like to open a second Rhythm Kitchen unit, ideally in another “high footfall” location, perhaps after the Olympics in 2012, which will offer a measure of how successful the concept could be. Ultimately, Roth and Dixon would like to have three to six units in operation, although they are cautious about committing to a timeline, saying they don’t have a set business plan, and will see how they survive emotionally running the restaurant throughout the Olympics.
The partners also hope to develop a product offshoot - a range of Dixon's jerk sauces for sale in supermarkets.
The ideal path to success, Roth said, would be that trodden by Vietnamese informal dining concept Pho, which, since launching in 2005, now has six restaurants, including a new Westfield Stratford unit and another in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush which launched in 2008.
“We really like their food and we would love to copy this blueprint,” said Roth.
He added: “It’s a good time to go into food. There is money around if you want to grow bigger, as people don’t have anywhere to put their money in other areas.”