Cottons Restaurant & Rhum Shack
The restaurant itself has been going strong since 1986, and they bill themselves as providing 'modern Caribbean cuisine' - the best traditional Caribbean food with a nouvelle cuisine twist. Cottons certainly had a great party atmosphere on the weekday night we showed up, with a large gathering going on downstairs in one of the three dining rooms. We found ourselves quite cosily set up on a table for two. I was dying for a cocktail by now and luckily the choice was fabulous; I opted for a Daiquiri, recreated from a late 19th-Century recipe and made with white rum, fresh lime juice and a sugar syrup. We also tried a Caribbean Yellow Bird - a delicious blend of dark rum, Galliano, banana liqueur and orange and pineapple juice. The total Rhum Shack experience wouldn't have been complete without them.
Not being overly familiar with Caribbean cuisine, we decided that the West Indian meze for two people was a good introduction to the range of flavours on offer. Each component was delicious, and a little embodiment of everything the cuisine has to offer; we enjoyed Bajan fish fritters and Creole prawns, jerk chicken, a vegetable tabbouleh, a saucy little chickpea and roast pumpkin curry, and a grilled roti. For our mains we tried the Cottons signature mixed grill which consisted of jerk pork ribs, chicken, lamb kofta and pork belly all served with rice 'n' peas and plantain, and the Cottons beef pepperpot, with slow-cooked beef, Caribbean peppers and vegetables - not too hot and spicy but with a healthy tang to it. The food had lots of flavour and the medley of sweet and sharp flavours provided exciting contrast. For pudding we shared a really fabulous warm banana and date pudding which arrived oozing with butterscotch sauce and accompanied by vanilla ice cream.
The restaurant is richly decorated in deep reds and spicy colours, with West Indian and Caribbean art on the walls and the right kind of music playing not too loud, but loud enough to create a vibrant atmosphere and to transport you and your tastebuds to a sunnier climate. If you're in the mood to celebrate, don't forget to look out for the famous Cottons Camden Friday night jam or the regular Saturday and Sunday parties.