Eren Ali, the co-founder of Las Iguanas, which was recently sold to the Casual Dining Group in a c£85m deal, is to launch a new restaurant venture with Levi Roots, creator of Reggae Reggae Sauce and undoubtedly the biggest success of BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme.
The pair are set to launch the first site under the new venture, which M&C understands will be called Levi’s Caribbean Smokehouse, in November after securing a site at The Street, Westfield Stratford.
Ali, who has set up new company Real Restaurants to oversee the venture, told M&C that the concept, which will be overseen day to day by Steve Phillips, previously of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, as head of operations, would be different to any other Caribbean concept currently operating in the UK and “light years ahead in terms of its use of technology”.
He said: “The concept will be aimed at a broad demographic in keeping with Levi’s popularity and will be absolutely different to anything else on the market in the category. We will assess how the first site goes, but believe it will suit iconic locations in the capital.”
Ali’s Las Iguanas co-founder Aj Jaya-Wickrema is currently overseeing the fast-paced expansion of the Caribbean-influenced Turtle Bay, with the Piper-backed brand set to open its 20th site later this year in Oxford.
Ali said that his new concept will be different in style to both Turtle Bay and Las Iguanas, which he officially left after 24 years last Monday. He said that the new concept will have less emphasis on a drinks offer than the other two formats.
Roots has mooted launching a restaurant concept since the initial success of his Reggae Reggae Sauce on Dragons’ Den. Two years ago he told M&C that he was looking at a “Caribbean take on Nando’s” for his first venture into the restaurant sector
He said that the restaurant will bring “authentic Caribbean cuisine to life, making it accessible to everyone”.
He said: “I know Caribbean cuisine and Eren knows how to create successful dining experiences. It feels like the perfect partnership. Since the initial success of Reggae Reggae Sauce on Dragons’ Den I’ve wanted to bring the tastes of the Caribbean to as many people as possible. Now that we have built such a strong reputation for the “Levi Roots” brand, it feels like the right time for me to open a restaurant to give even more people the opportunity to enjoy genuine Caribbean cooking.”
Ali said: “I’ve been relishing the idea of working with Levi. We are bringing something unique back from our Caribbean travels together to Levi’s adopted home town of London.”
CDG has acquired the 41-strong Las Iguanas chain from private equity firm Bowmark Capital earlier this month.
Davis Coffer Lyons acted on the Westfield Stratford deal.