The first thing that struck me was that I could only book a table for either 5 our 9:15 pm. Weird, as neither of those are traditionally times people want to eat dinner. No matter – we would hang out in the famous rum bar until our table was free at 9:15.
Cottons’ rum bar was smaller than I had imagined and very popular, leading to a bit of a cramped cocktail experience. But as the other patrons were cheerful and the cocktails were amazing, this didn’t bother us for long.
Behind the bar is a huge wall of rum (above), and the cocktail menu uses them very creatively. I started on the hard stuff with the Killer Doppo (for types of rum, below) whilst Angharad went for Cool Runnings (cucumber heavy! Very refreshing). Paul stayed on the Red Stripe all night (you can’t win them all) and Ben unimaginatively went for a Long Island Iced Tea (not even looking at the menu!)
Us girls then tried the China Breeze (with coconut rum and lychee juice) and we soon found ourselves at our table.
Our table was a cosy little booth – the ceilings were quite low, and the while set up made us feel like we were on a boat.
Starters comprised Ben and I sharing jerk pork ribs, Angharad with some black eye bean fritters and Paul had shredded sweet chilli chicken (I think). It all disappeared quickly, and then the lads and I sopped up the remaining jerk sauce with complimentary dough bread.
Whilst we were waiting for our mains, we ordered some more drinks – Angharad went back to Cool Runnings (a good film!) while I moved on to El Draque (made with mint and tea leaves). Paul was still on the Red Stripe, and Ben asked for… a whisky. Our waiter couldn’t believe it, and (rightly) refused to serve him whisky in a rum bar! To our surprise, he soon returned with half a dozen different rums for Ben to try, adamant that he would find one akin to whisky that he would like. He did, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was. This super-star treatment (and this particular waiter, in fact) made our evening not good but great.
Mains came. Angharad had barely looked at the menu before homing in on curried goat with peas an’ rrrrice. Paul went for a jerk spiced lamb shank (mm, jerk) sitting on a bed of sweet potato mash and wilted spinach, and Ben and I defied convention by sharing a main – the mixed jerk meat grill. We did bulk it up with a side of dumplings and coleslaw, but sharing a main led us to feel satisfied rather than stuffed – watch out, restaurants, we might do this more often in future. Sorry.
The food at Cottons was delicious – good portion sizes, and going beyond the barbecue, into the restaurant. Rather than just a chunk of meat with a handful of rice (my experience at Stratford’s Caribbean Scene), Cottons offered really top quality cuisine, beautifully flavoured. I particularly loved the jerk belly pork. I was also intrigued by some of the more unusual menu options, such as jerk venison. Maybe next time.
Cottons was clean, with a friendly atmosphere. The waiter service was friendly and, as I mentioned above, very helpful in guiding our choices. My only criticism would be the unusual table booking times (which led us to get home at beyond midnight – not ideal, considering we only had a meal out, not a night on the lash). Whilst I had originally considered the premises “cramped”, given the atmosphere, I would now changed that evaluation to “cosy”. Definitely recommended, even if you forego the meal – the cocktails were amazing!