Spice is a funny thing: not enough and it’s like someone has stood you up, but too much and the heat overpowers all motor functions, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. I learned this the hard way when I stripped naked to the waist and entered a chilli eating contest. My friends initially thought I was a hero, but dinner and the subsequent karaoke were ruined.
Luckily with Cottons Shoreditch, you know you’re in safe hands. This place is part of London’s longest running collection of Caribbean restaurants, and they’ve spent their time wisely thinking about two things: what to do with spice, and also rum.
The sugary liquor seems to be seeing something of a resurgence, and about time too. It can do more than just Mojitos and Zombies, though. At Cottons the menu is mix of fruity classics and their own concoctions. With 235 rums behind the bar you won’t go wanting here. We barely made a dent in their supplies, opting for the signature Cottons Punch (a powerful blend of Wray & Nephew overproof rum, orange, guava, pineapple juice, grenadine), which perfectly sums up their overall emphasis on fruit and fire.
After a few sweeteners you’ll be ready to dig into the food, and your first hit of spice. They’ve locked enough moisture into the trio of fritters (£6.50) to ensure you don’t actually need any sauce, which is something I’ve never seen before and no mean feat. At first glance the crayfish & lobster mac and cheese (£7.50) could be just a fist of melted dairy, which would be great on its own, but hidden within is not only tasty crustacean but a peppering of surprise spice. A hint of what’s to come.
The main event is the mixed meat platter (£27.50 for two). Everywhere I look, tender meat dripping with jerk sauce was falling off some sort of bone. They do give you a knife and fork, but I’m not sure why; feel free to ignore them, messy hands are needed here.
The range of meats demonstrate the dexterity of the sauce. Despite feeling firmly in the Caribbean, the lamb has a gamy, English taste to complement the jerk kick. Fatty pork ribs serve up a rich range of indulgence and the chicken doesn’t disappoint on the cooking or heat. Everything here will have your tongue singing. The Trinidadian fish curry (£12.50) offers the perfect balance of heat sensation, and also a great showcase complement to the range of rice dishes they do.
Also, look out for the rogue flowers* which pop up on each dish. You can eat them if you like, but I had to have my appendix out after eating grass** as a child, but it’s your funeral***.
To finish up the kitchen offers a set of desserts with rich chocolate flavours, cream and ice cream to cool any remaining fires. It seems fitting to close the meal with some fruit, having started with the citrus-y punch.
Overall Cottons Shoreditch offers a laid back option, good food, friendly staff and a range of drinks. We left here happy, with a pleasant hum of internal sunburn to combat our beautiful city's unforgiving summer rain.
*I should mention that the flowers are edible, whether you have an appendix or not.
**While I did eat grass, I’ve been told it is unrelated.
***If you want to eat flowers come here, because I truthfully don't know if all the wild ones are edible.