Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and Salon de Rhum Notting Hill:
The last time I visited 157-159 Notting Hill Gate it was to review Chakra – an excellent upmarket Indian restaurant. Now moved a mile or so away to High Street Kensington, the food there is still delicious. The interior at 157 has changed considerably, there’s a new well-stocked rum bar and the seating is now a little less formal. There are bar stools catering for casual diners and a series of interconnecting rooms with a lively yet cosy feel, perhaps because of the Caribbean style artwork on the walls and a collection of tropical plants softening the interior.
It’s now the flagship restaurant for the already successful Cottons group. You may already know the Camden branch, which opened over 30 years ago and there’s a third outlet in Shoreditch. Cottons Notting Hill is intended to offer a more refined experience to the other restaurants, without losing the vibrancy and authentic Caribbean flavours which have helped to make the brand famous.
I met up with The-Hedonist to try it out and of course, first on the agenda was a cocktail each. In fact due to a bit of a mix-up and an allergy we ended up with three cocktails between the two of us. Or rather, two for The-Hedonist and one for me! My Smokin Hot was delicious and perfectly balanced and had a good smoky bourbon taste, though it arrived to be poured from a covered flask, I assumed intending it to have a smoking top. I really didn’t spot much visible ‘smoke’, perhaps that referred to the Bourbon base> The-Hedonist had ordered a Frozen Daquari – a dark rum and lime juice based cocktail with strawberry purée. It arrived with ‘My Fair Lady’ which looked delicious but unfortunately for me was full of strawberries. A fruit infused Wray and Nephew rum with crushed guava and summer fruit was topped with sparkling wine to make what SHOULD have been the perfect drink! Cottons has the largest rum collection in the UK, with over 300 varieties available. So it’s the perfect place to indulge.
We decided to share dishes so kept to a pescatarian menu. But, there are plenty of great sounding meatier offers available for those with a carnivorous yearning and there’s also a good selection of vegetarian dishes.
A mezze platter (£7) came with accra, aubergine choka, creole shrimps and pholourie (fried, spiced dough balls). I loved the mixture of textures and the freshness of mango and tomato against the pholourie and shrimps.
Scallop Ceviche was delicate and lightly spiced. For me the heat level was spot on, not so much that it overwhelmed the scallop. That despite a menu listing that included scotch bonnet and tigers milk.
Both dishes were beautifully presented too.
Cottons has a number of platters which could serve one very hungry person or be shared between two. We opted to share the Signature Fish and Seafood Platter with scallops, clams, king prawns, squid, monkfish tails and lobster with plantain (£26.50) and add in a couple of side dishes. Rice n seas (£3) and Spring greens with garlic butter (£3).
The stunning Fish and Seafood platter was perfectly cooked. I particularly loved the grilled lobster and prawns while serving the more delicate clams in a side dish helped ensure that the flavours were not overwhelmed. Rice and peas made perfect comfort food and a good accompaniment to the fish.
My Banana Napoleon (£8) was the sort of dessert you really want to eat more of. Crisp sheets of filo pastry sheet were layered with a delicious banana cream, and a coconut snow with a scattering of what I think was pistachio and coriander
The-Hedonist meanwhile enjoyed a lemongrass flan with berries (£6).
Then, while I enjoyed a coffee, he tried one of the rums…which really did look enticing! I’ll just have to go back again and have one for myself.
My only reservation about Cottons was that the service didn’t quite match the excellent standard of the food or cocktails. At times it was haphazard and the timing was definitely Caribbean style. But perhaps that is all part of the charm and authenticity of this place.
157-159 Notting Hill Gate