The Caribbean in my Back Yard – at Cottons Vauxhall:
I have a somewhat biased love for restaurants that are within walking distance. I have to confess Vauxhall is marginal – it’s around a half hour from home. But, it’s easier to walk there than rely on public transport and in any case, our very atypical summer has meant I’m happier strolling than being squished on a bus or tube. I’ve already visited Cottons in Notting Hill and really enjoyed the Caribbean food. And, this year, having visited both St Lucia for the food and rum festival and Grenada for the chocolate festival I’ve developed an appreciation for this unique cuisine.
Cottons Vauxhall is right by St George’s Wharf – the perfect location if you fancy arriving by river. It’s a great place for an outdoor terrace – and that’s just where we sat, enjoying the view out over the river. If I’m honest, the food wouldn’t matter with this kind of setting. Especially as they have a daily happy hour with cocktails, wine and beer from 5pm to 7pm every day – and a rather fine selection of rum to use to make the perfect Rum punch and more.
Yes, we started with a cocktail each – a Reggae Rum Punch for my companion (who has Caribbean roots) and Cottons punch for me. It turns out that both are based on WRAY and nephew Overproof rum, which at 63% proof will, as the menu suggests, get you singing like Bob Marley if you are not careful.
My Cottons punch was a little sweeter than I’d normally order, but definitely worth trying – a fruity concoction laced with grenadine. My companion’s was slightly more astringent thanks to the addition of lime juice and is probably the one I’ll be picking next time. Cocktails are all about personal taste and I’m not a big fan of sweet drinks, though I love a good Rum Punch.
Ordering food, I started with Salt Cod fish cakes with jerk mayo and avocado emulsion. I’d have liked a little more punch in the jerk mayo, but this was nevertheless a beautifully cooked plate, bursting with flavour. Was it authentic Caribbean food? I don’t know – but it was very good indeed.
My companion’s grilled cumin and allspice vegetable skewers gave me a touch of food envy. I’m planning to try recreating these, they looked and tasted delicious and the subtle spicing took me right back to the Caribbean.
For main course, I ordered the buttermilk chicken pieces and barbecue ribs, which come with fried plantain, rice n peas and coleslaw. I loved the ribs – something which surprised me, as I generally find them tough and fatty. And the buttermilk chicken was deliciously tender and moist. Now if you could just take me back to a beach in St Lucia or Grenada, I’d be happy!
My companion’s seafood platter looked amazing and I’ll definitely be trying that when I am next at Cottons. We both thought the rice n peas was a bit dry and the plantain a little underwhelming though. These are staples of Caribbean food and my companion, who is something of an expert as she still has family living in the Caribbean and visits regularly, thought they could have been better executed.
Meanwhile, we were just a little distracted by the astonishing sunset. What a glorious place to sit on a balmy summer’s evening.
My Jamaican Fruit Cake with vanilla cream and peanut punch reduction was a gloriously sticky, moist concoction and probably my favourite dish of the evening.
Soursop Cheesecake was a little less successful, though the pina colada reduction and grilled mango made an excellent foil for the baked cheesecake.
Cottons have four branches across London and, from experience, each has a very different feel though the wide selection of rums and Caribbean food menu works across all the venues.
I’m impressed with how well the Vauxhall restaurant works – it’s a new complex and could feel sterile and bland. But there’s a real vibe and, with such stunning views across the river, it’s somewhere I’m sure will be successful.
12, Flagstaff House,
St George Wharf Tower,
London SW8 2LE
Opening hours –
Sunday – Thursday 12pm to 10pm
Friday – Saturday 11am – 10.30pm