157-159 Notting Hill Gate W11 3LF
020 7243 0090/http://cottons-restaurant.co.uk/notting-hill/I’ve never been to the Caribbean so the next best thing was being asked to review the new flagship restaurant for the Cottons group of restaurants, Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and Salon de Rhum in Notting Hill. It’s the upmarket sibling to the original Cottons which opened in Camden over 30 years ago and the Street Food Boxpark Cottons in Shoreditch.The tiki style restaurant and bar offers ‘traditional Caribbean cuisine, weekend brunches and eclectic rum cocktails’ which it was my clear duty to sample-as well as stocking the largest rum collection in the UK!Despite my best efforts I didn’t get through everything on the drinks list but I can report that the Smokin Hot Bourbon (£9.50) with demerara and blackberry syrup, tarragon infusion, orange and angostura bitters was deliciously dark and well yes…smoky. Smoked bourbon drinks are totally on trend at the moment which made me start to think that Cottons might have a more sophisticated offer than most other Caribbean restaurants in town. A Frozen Daiquiri (£8) made with dark rum, lime juice, strawberry purée and crushed ice was a classic version of what is one of my favourite summer drinks-beautifully refreshing but not too sweet with a hint of evil amongst the sunshine from the rum notes poking through.The Mezze platter featuring (£7) Accra (a peppery Jerusalem artichoke fritter, aubergine choka (grilled for smokiness), creole shrimps and pholourie (fried dough balls) was a prettily presented and gutsy plate of food with big strong flavours and contrasting textures.I’m always nervous when I see scotch bonnet chillies on the menu but the tiger’s milk element of the Scallop Ceviche (£8)-green mango, scotch bonnet and tigers milk- had a fragrant gentle acidity with only a hint of burn. This was a subtle take on the ceviche and as good as anything I have eaten in London’s top Peruvian restaurants.Fiona and I shared the Signature Fish and Seafood Platter (£26.50) for a main dish. There were great chunks of seafood cooked in spices and butter; scallops, clams, king prawns, squid, monkfish tails, lobster with plantain and clams in spicy coconut broth. The flavours were bold and exciting-this was a great dish. Rice n Peas (£3) were perfect for soaking up the seafood flavours of the platter and spring greens (£3) were simply cooked with garlic butter.Lemongrass flan with berries (£6) was really a Spanish crème caramel with a hint of lemongrass beautifully matched by the vanilla and oak of a glass of Corsaire rum.Banana Napoleon (£8) was a beautifully plated construction of Filo pastry, banana cream, coconut snow, tropical fruit sorbet and coriander. It was a little sweet for me but Fiona had no trouble in polishing it off….
I didn’t have particularly great expectations of the food at Cottons as my experience of Caribbean food the UK hasn’t been great. However the kitchen delivered powerful flavours but in a well balanced way that really impressed me. It combined intensity with the precision and presentation of fine dining. All I want them to do now is to have matched rums with each dish!
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