We’re frequent attendees at the monthly rum masterclasses at Cottons in Notting Hill and were pleased to be given the chance to review the food (and rum) offerings at the newly-opened restaurant in Shoreditch. There had been a branch in eastern side of the city for a while, over at the Boxpark, but the new Curtain Road venue replaces that and gives it a much more ‘permanent’ feeling.
First declaration, we love our Caribbean food. Second, we’d just returned from a trip to the Caribbean so fully appreciated the restaurant’s décor – think bright shutters and colourful murals, shack-style decoration for the bar and messages written on barrels.
We were among the first tables to be seated at 6.30, but within half an hour to an hour, the place was full to bursting with couples and groups.
We both kicked off with a mai tai each (Appleton as the base) and got stuck into making our menu decisions. It’s one of those where you have to be strategic: all the options sound good so you don’t want anyone at the table having the same as anyone else so you get to try it all. You can also choose to have starters and mains come at the same time for a real taste-of-everything experience.
For starters, then, we opted for the trio of fritters with coconut chutney (chick pea, black eye bean and spinach & callaloo) and jerk pork ribs served with plantain chips. All three fritters were indeed different and easy to identify which was which. The chutney added moisture and was clearly freshly grated coconut, which is a bonus. The jerk ribs were juicy and big on flavour and definitely get the thumbs up.
Now, brown stew chicken is one of our favourite Jamaican dishes, but there’s always a reluctance to order it in restaurants because it never lives up to the wonderful takeaway versions we’ve had across south east London. We semi stuck to that at Cottons, with one curry mutton (another Jamaican classic) and one daring brown stew chicken.
Curry mutton, with rice & peas, plantain and coleslaw was spot on – not too spicy, but full of flavour and the ripe plantain the perfect contrast of sweetness. Big plus point is the meat was all off the bone so less picking and more eating! The brown stew chicken, however, although the meat was falling off the bone, the sauce seemed to be dominated by barbecue sauce, adding too much thickness and sweetness.
Second cocktails followed – the hilariously named raas berry explosion (another Appleton one, with raspberry puree, mint and lime) and a wild caipirinha (cachaca infused with green tea, homemade nettle syrup, lime juice and a dark rum float) – the latter highly recommended!
Barman Yannick then surprised us with delivery of a taster of Abuelo 12 and we were able to chat about his experience working at one of the most well-stocked rum bars in London. Of course, the sister restaurant in Notting Hill now holds the world record for its variety of rum. Being relatively new to the world of rum, Yannick started off like us all, wanting to move beyond the world of rum and coke, and is trying to work his way through what the bar has to offer (all in the name of research of course).
The next tasting glass he brought over contained an interesting one for us: Cruzan single barrel. We purchased a batch of the newest bottling on a whim in Canada, having heard of the brand, but never having come across it before. That is an odd juice, rumoured to have woodiness and smokiness added. Cottons have an earlier version, however, which was totally different and seemed rather more ‘natural’.
For memories of the holiday a month before, we ended with a glass of Trois Rivières. Anywhere that has a decent selection of agricole rhum earns their colours in our rum world.
It’s also worth pointing out their drinks happy hour between 5 and 7pm with £5 cocktails, including the instant hit, reggae rum punch.
Until next time, keep rumming!