Not one to shy away from traversing to an area of London I’ve never seen before - and willing to travel pretty much anywhere to eat Caribbean food - my friend and I made our way to Vauxhall to try Cottons. With one long standing venue in Camden (over 30 years in fact) and much more recent Notting Hill and Shoreditch openings, I had an inkling I was in for a treat.
Venue & Atmosphere
Sitting pretty on St Georges Wharf, Cottons have nabbed an ideal location, and we definitely stopped to take a sunset river selfie before venturing in. Inside, we found a colourful space betoken to its Caribbean roots. The room is decorated in deep red and orange hues, with some walls adorned in colourful Caribbean murals (including a cheeky Bob Marley painting) and others painted to resemble exuberant blue skies. The palm tree plants, window shutters showing family scenes and fragments of colourful housing gave it a fun, tropical feel.
Cottons has an eye-catching wood and mirror panelled bar, surrounded by wooden stools if you just want to pop in for a cocktail made from the stacks and stacks of rum. The rest of the space is scattered with dark wooden tables, as well as benches and chairs covered in red zig-zag tapestry. Welcoming and vibrant, this new Cottons has nailed its look - and I dare say it’s a one of a kind in the area.
When we arrived (7pm on a Tuesday evening) the place wasn’t very busy, though it did begin to fill up slightly as the evening progressed, where the reggae soundtrack and hum of other diners gave it a friendly buzz. Clientele wise, it was largely a mix of twenty-somethings and above on date nights or catching up over dinner.
Food & Drink
Once seated, there really was only one thing on our minds: rum cocktails. My partner-in-crime ordered the Reggae Rum Punch (£8.50), made with Wray & Nephew rum, orange, pineapple, lime juice and grenadine, which packed a smooth, fruity taste. Not one to shy away from a lot of rum, I went for the Killer Duppy (£8.50) which married four different types, apricot liqueur, blue curaçao, orange, pineapple and lime juice. This came out looking like a rainbow, and despite the high alcohol volume, it was expertly mixed and tasted divine.
The food menu is packed full of Caribbean classics with creative twists (each looking as amazing as the last), so after some tough decision making, we kicked things off with pork ribs (£7.00) and pan fried king prawns (£7.50). The ribs were roasted with rum, molasses and barbecue glaze, which gave them a sticky, rich flavour. My prawns were marinated in a delightfully tasty jerk butter served with coco bread. These were hands down the best prawns I’ve ever had: huge, beautifully cooked and full of flavour.
Feeling extremely pleased with ourselves for choosing such brilliant starters, we turned our attention to the mains. My friend was drawn to the classic jerk half chicken (£15.50) whereas I opted for the seafood platter (£18.50). One things for sure - Cottons do not skimp on their portion sizes. The tender chicken was perfectly cooked, roasted with pimiento and spices and served on a bed of stir fried vegetables; my friend said it was one of the best Caribbean dishes she’d ever had (a recurring theme here).
Luckily I didn’t experience the pain of food envy as my platter of grilled squid, chilli prawns, seabass and bream fillets, was absolute perfection. The seafood worked beautifully with the delicious jerk sauce, which had a light, spicy punch. Both dishes were served alongside rice 'n' peas, and fried plantain, which added a sweet touch. We also couldn't resist ordering a portion of mac and cheese (£3.50) - coated in a gluttonously creamy sauce with onions, it worked like magic with our mains.
Despite being full, with a ‘there’s always room for dessert’ mantra etched into our hearts, my friend chose the chocolate and honeycomb cheesecake (£6) and I chose the Jamaican bread and butter pudding (£6). The former was a chocolate lover's dream; balanced out nicely by a scattering of passionfruit honey-spiced granola. The latter was also delicious, the rum-soaked pudding paired beautifully with caramelised banana and cinnamon crème fraiche, it’s safe to say we were fit to burst.
My evening at Cottons was a wonderful experience. Why? Because the atmosphere was great, the staff were lovely and most importantly, the food was faultless. If you need me, I’ll be at my closest Cottons with a Killer Duppy in hand.