Jamaican trip inspires Plymouth restaurant Soulfood Vendor's new plantain dishes – Plymouth Live

Caribbean restaurant utilises sibling to banana to make waffles and liven up an already colourful menu
When Plymouth restaurateur Richard Dyer went to Jamaica to learn about his family tree he discovered another sort of tree – a plantain one. The result was new dishes on the menu at Plymouth city centre’s Soul Food Vendor Caribbean restaurant .
That’s because when Richard was introduced to the plantain plant he realised just how delicious and nutritious the sibling to the banana is. He came back to Plymouth brimming with ideas.
The result is that several new dishes will be added to the Soulfood Vendor menu from April 28, including some literally based on a plantain waffle. The team at the eatery, in Market Avenue, has come up with vegan, vegetarian and meat waffle dishes.
They include a jerk chicken waffle, a meat-free vegan jerk chicken waffle and a mac plantain waffle. There is even a sweet dessert waffle for those with a sweet tooth.
Plantains are a major food staple in Africa and the Americas, and can be used in a variety of mouth-watering dishes. Richard said: “Plantain is a nutritious and versatile vegetable, great as sweet or savoury.”
He added: “The idea came from a recent trip back home to Jamaica to discover my family tree. My uncle has a yoga retreat with a vegan cuisine, and he had a plantain tree. It was amazing to discover the agricultural side of things. My family background is as farmers.”
Richard’s family hails from a Jamaican parish called St Elizabeth and he said: “They grow their own crops and sell them. It’s their living and also a great way of life, a healthy way of life.”
Richard said he soon learned about the plant and what it can be used for and thought it would be good to make it a more central part of the Soul Food Vendor menu where it had only previously been used as a side. It also fitted with the restaurant’s policy of producing nutritious and freshly made meals.
“We wanted something unique to bring to the market,” said Richard. “Plantain is a source of vitamins C, A, B6 and magnesium and potassium. It’s authentic Caribbean but sourced locally.”
The new menu will introduce the jerk chicken waffle, which is shredded jerk chicken, coated in homemade jerk sauce – hot or not- and topped with cheese melt, mixed peppers and spring onions. The meat-free jerk chicken waffle substitutes diced meat-free chicken made from soya.
The mac plantain waffle has a “delicious mac n cheese” topped with soulfood sauce , mixed peppers and spring onions. Claire Fuery, head chef at Soulfood Vendor, said: “Plantain waffles are a good alternative to fries.”
The sweet dessert waffle is plantain coated in cinnamon sugar, topped with Jamaican ginger cake, caramel sauce and chocolate rum and raisin sauce. Soulfood Vendor has also struck a deal with Langage Farm to sell its tasty rum and raisin ice cream.
Soulfood Vendor was opened by Richard and Jade Lavers in 2020 inside Plymouth Market, just before the Covid lockdown was announced. It was able to operate as a takeaway only operation which became so successful Richard decided to open a full restaurant. The Soulfood Vendor team took a unit on the outside of the market and began the expansion in 2021.
It soon became a hit and has received numerous five-star reviews and a Tripadvisor award. It opens Tuesday to Thursday, from noon to 8pm, and to 9pm on Friday and Saturday. The team can also cater for weddings and other events . Jade said: “We get some big bookings. We have one for 20 people on Saturday.”
The menu contains popular “island dishes” such as jerk chicken and curry goat, both with rice and peas. There are also burgers and skin fries, wraps, vegan and vegetarian options, starters and sides, and children’s meals. A £5 “saver menu” was recently introduced for people on a budget during the daytime.
Jade, manager at the restaurant, said: “Doing all our food from scratch is such a big thing for us. And you can really tell how important it is when you talk to the customers.
“We do meat, vegan and veggie options for our popular platters too. They are a good way to try everything, especially if you are a new customer.”
Jade is not a vegan but said the vegan curry, with rice and peas, is a personal favourite. She said: “You don’t feel you are missing the meat. But our curried goat with rice and peas is still a bestseller, with that you can’t go wrong.”
Richard, Jade and Claire said that the West End of Plymouth has now cemented a reputation as a key destination for foodies. Jade said: “People tell us they come to this end of town for the independent food outlets. People that come down here do try every independent restaurant around here. And we have regulars who come from Torbay and Exeter. We even have a customer who returned from a holiday to Greece and drove straight here from Bristol Airport because they had missed Soulfood Vendor so much. That was amazing.”
Claire Fuery, head chef, and Jade Lavers, manager, outside Caribbean restaurant Soulfood Vendor, in Market Avenue, Plymouth
A meat-free jerk chicken waffle dish available at Soulfood Vendor
Plantain waffles can be used in dessert dishes too at Soulfood Vendor
New dishes at Soulfood Vendor, in Market Avenue, Plymouth
Soulfood Vendor has partnered with Langage Farm to offer rum and raisin flavour ice cream
Reggae great Bob Marley is a feature inside Soulfood Vendor
Soulfood Vendor has to be one of Plymouth’s most colourful restaurants
Music is a key feature at Plymouth’s Soulfood Vendor Caribbean restaurant

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