You know me and Caribbean food, I love it. So when I heard there was a new Cottons restaurant opening in Notting Hill, it wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when would I be visiting to try the menu.
We headed down to Notting Hill Gate and were greeted by the very friendly manager Martin
Sit yourself in the airy back room if you can. Light floods onto a handful of tables through the glass roof and there’s a bright mural of a waterfall on one of the walls.
If you want to be surrounded by the buzz, you can also sit by the rainbow coloured bar, which stocks over 300 rum varieties. Impressively, that’s the largest rum collection in the whole of the UK. The music throughout this place is also brilliant (think old school hip hop, a bit of soul).
Cocktails and Rum at Cottons
If you like rum punch, you must try the one at Cottons. I substituted the Wray and Nephew overproof rum for my favourite Appletons, but I’m sure whichever rum you choose, it will taste fantastic.
The Admiral Benbow which Mr C had, is a take on an Old Fashioned. As the manager poured it, swirls of smoke emerged from the glass, adding a novel start to our meal.
Later into the meal we ordered two more, the Across The Border and the Wild Tiki. The first cocktail had a Wray & Nephew and Havana Gold base with super sweet Maraschino liqueur, Grand Marnier, lime juice and agave mixed in there.
The latter had a spiced rum base and had plenty of sweetness from the Maraschino liqueur, pineapple and a passion fruit puree. This was nicely balanced however, with Aperol and the lovely perfume of kafir and lemongrass. It was topped with a lovely layer of egg white foam.
We were actually told the number of ingredients in the cocktails at Cottons goes well into double figures – so beyond what you read on the menu. This is good stuff, cocktail fans. Prepare to be impressed.
Food at Cottons
The pork belly starter was well seasoned and had a deliciously crunchy exterior with good flavour in the glaze. But in all honesty, it consisted of so much fat, that only a small amount of meat was actually edible. The crunchy vegetables were nice and the presentation was very impressive.
I was brave and went for the monk cheek accra. Accra is a kind of fritter which is quite common in West Indian cooking – salt fish is often cooked in this way.
Martin told us that the cheek is a part of the fish that so often gets disposed of, but is actually one of the juiciest parts. At Cottons, monk fish accra are served with a cucumber raita and coconut coriander chutney. I wanted to like them, I really did. And I ate it, but the strong smell and flavour just wasn’t for me. Once again though, the presentation was beautiful. The sour gherkin, fresh raita and fragrant chutney added an interesting flavour combination to this dish.
Until now, I hadn’t really associated garam masala with West Indian cooking but I think it’s common in Trinidadian cuisine. It’s also slightly milder then the spice mix you associate with India. Either way, Mr C loved it and the use of fragrant herbs and flowers was fantastic.
While the masala lamb carried delicate flavours, the seafood platter was big and bold. There was no plantain on the plate as promised on the menu, but the rice and peas we ordered on the side tasted great. Especially when I doused it in the rich coconut sauce from the pot of clams.
Desserts at Cottons
There’s an intriguing choice of desserts at Cottons. I can’t say I’ve ever seen seen a green tea crepe with sorrel jelly on a menu. Nor would I have thought ‘banana cream’, ‘coconut snow’, tropical fruits sorbet and coriander was a thing.
But the winning desserts for us were the chocolate praline bar and the lemongrass flan. The lemongrass flan was small but quite rightly so It was packed with fruity and chocolatey flavours and provided a fragrant hint of lemongrass that lingered on the palate.
What can I say – I generally believe that Caribbean food doesn’t have to be fancy to taste good. Often, it’s the simple approach to cooking that makes West Indian food so appealling.
That said, Cottons does an excellent job of serving upscale Caribbean cuisine in a vibrant setting.
It’s fun, tasty, adventurous and exciting. And for a couple of hours on a Wednesday night, it transported us back to the sunny climes of the Caribbean – one of my favourite places in the world.