Another day, another trip for me to grab some small plates. A lover of platters, charcuterie boards at wine bars, tapas and everything in between, I can't get enough of meals promising a bit of this 'n' that. Besides, who wouldn't want to try and munch most of the menu? Somewhere I've had my eye on for a time is Cottonopolis, a stylish den of pan-Asian flavours, but with a particular focus on those from Japan. So, I shimmied my way over one busy Thursday night to find out what all the fuss is about.
Spying the restaurant's signature bee logos on the window, we slipped inside the grand building to find equally impressive interiors and a lively atmosphere, feeling instantly at ease. Think wooden floors, raised window booths decked out with leather and huge lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Dark and golden tones added a sophisticated touch throughout, while a lone disco ball hinted to Cottonopolis' fun-loving vibe. Having heard a great deal about the Japanese cocktails here, I was eager to dive right in from the moment we sat down. My Toropikaru Spritz (£10) and his shiso Tommy's (£10) were swiftly ordered; the former offering a gin, pineapple and strawberry-laced version of a classic Aperol spritz, while the latter made the most delicious blueberry marg.
Food wasn't far behind, thanks to the speed at which the kitchen whipped up our four-piece maki: prawn and avocado dragon roll with caviar (£13). The fresh, meaty crustacean had a crisp exterior to add texture, while the buttery avo sat pretty atop and sushi ginger on the side. Perfection. My favourite side at a Japanese restaurant, wakame salad (£4.50), was whisked out next. Combining fresh, crunchy seaweed and radish with hints of sesame, it's the ideal thing to leave you feeling refreshed between dishes.
Following on from the fishy success of the maki was a beautifully presented plate of salmon tataki (£12). I loved the subtle charcoal quality to the seared edges, although I felt the yuzu flavour would have benefited from a bit more intensity. But, the miso black cod (£25) ticked every box. Falling apart at the touch of a chopstick? Check. Crispy skin? You bet-cha.
Similarly, the char sui pork rib (£11) was coming off the bone with ease, slathered in a gloriously messy, sweet and sticky sauce that boasted a touch of spice. In fact, we liked it so much that we then ordered the delicious char sui pork bao buns (£13) too, where the succulent meat was accompanied by a rich peanut satay and a puffy bun. Swoon. The star of the night, though, was the salt and pepper squid (£11) alongside chilli honey for dunking. The Chinese seasoning was subtle, and I by no means mean that as a bad thing. Not only was it soft inside, melting in the mouth, but the batter couldn't have been done any better either. This one alone would make me come back for more.
To finish? More drinks and dessert, of course. I'd had my eye on the yuki flower sour (£12) throughout our meal, so couldn't imagine sipping anything else. This new take on one of my favourites mixed tequila, St Germain elderflower, mezcal, lime and some fun, frozen bitters. The result was as divine as the cute floral garnish on top. Ishigaki Surf (£10) was my other half's pick, a delightful number that was served long and had the essence of a piña colada, only without the heavy cream - a welcome change, in my opinon.
Sweet treats came in the form of a yuzu cheesecake (£8) for me and the toffee pudding (£9) for him. Both of us are absolute suckers for these dishes, so had high expectations. Mine had a really delicate citrus taste and, although the accompanying sorbet was packed with the stuff, I would've preferred some more in the main event itself. However, it was still the ideal balance of light and creamy. Whereas the other dessert was more cake-like than we were expecting, it was positively moreish, topped off by honey and served alongside ice cream.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Cottonopolis is a mecca of Japanese cuisine and some Chinese influences, from platters of sushi to robata-grilled plates and salt 'n' pepper seasoned goodies. Flavours here are largely on the money (balanced, full and memorable), while the cooking execution itself is faultless. Although, next time I'd probably skip dessert and quaff another cocktail instead. Sue me.
💰 The damage: £154 for an indulgent meal and drinks between two.
📍 The location: 16 Newton St, M1 2AE.
👌 Perfect for: Stuffing yourself silly (and still wanting to eat more).
⭐ Need to know: Cottonopolis also whips up a must-visit bottomless brunch.