Our evening felt particularly timely with the Notting Hill Carnival having recently rampaged in the amazingly colourful processions of bright costumes, danceable beats and beaming smiles of the policemen being danced on, but meant that we could get our fill of jerk chicken without having to contend with overzealous partiers. (Sidenote: does this mean we are getting old?)
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Cottons Caribbean Restaurant and Rhum Shack of but all of my very, very many thoughts and laboured metaphors are only ever my own...
It was one of those face meltingly hot London days we get occasionally where it's just too much to cope with, and passing through their bar and front room we parked ourselves in the air conditioned back room and broke out the cocktail menu. The boy not realising quite how extensive the r(h)um menu is - 375 varieties! - is went with a bottle of Banks a classic Bahamas lager, whilst I chose the 'Smokin Hot', a dark rum cocktail served with Bourbon, demerara & blackberry syrup, tarragon infusion, orange & angostura bitters. Served smoking, it was a strong sultry start to our evening.
Pouring over the menu inbetween laughing at old stories of their holiday shenanigans, we giggled at the inclusion of a menu glossary before realising just how handy it was. For a starter I eventually decided on the BBQ slathered pork belly, served with pernod pickles and white onion. Picking up my fork, my mouth wept and my heart was transported from Notting Hill straight to St Lucia. Sweet, piquant, interesting and a party on a plate, I can't effusively gush at how much this dish surprised me and how tender the meat was. Mr Kiwi loved his plate of baigan chokha, chana dhal and doubles served with tamarind mango chutney - see where a glossary comes in handy?
Deciding to test out the rhum menu again, I couldn't resist ordering the 'Under a Coconut Tree', a libation inspired as per the fab name, comprising of spiced rum, Koko Kanu rum, coconut cream, coconut caviar, lemon juice and egg white - and providing the perfect foil to put out the fire of the anticipated jerk chicken. Mr Kiwi chose a Jamaican mule, the Caribbean classic of dark rum, angostura bitters, lime juice and ginger beer which disappeared quickly.
Normally preferring to have our own mains due to vastly different flavour palettes, for once we deviated and had our mains Caribbean family style. Comprising of 3 sharing plates - Jerk Chicken which was amazing, Mutton Curry which was just too heavy for the heat of the day and a Crayfish Mac & Cheese which I got all to my gluttonous self - plus sides of warm, fragrant smoked beetroot salad, the ubiquitous rice & peas and fried plantain.
It was Forks At Dawn over the Jerk Chicken with just a hint of heat and layers of flavour that rolled over our tongues - the plantain and rice providing starchy foils to mop up the flavour and the Mac & Cheese was lovely - subtle and bountiful.
It was so hearty, we soon realised that we had seriously over-ordered and forewent the dessert menu despite the lovely tropical options that were there, in favour of rubbing our bellies and
Newly launched in April as the flagship to sister restaurants in Camden and Shoreditch, the restaurant has a lovely, slightly posh, laid back vibe and tropical murals that will help Londoners to forget their zone one trials and tribulations. Oh, that and the incredible rum bar.
This upscale Caribbean cooking makes me want to live in a Notting Hill neighbourhood so we can just pop into everytime we have a hankering for good, sophisticated Jerk Chicken and the taste of a beautiful rum cocktail. Actually on second thought, that temptation is still so strong - Notting Hill is 15minutes from Oxford Circus (aka the centre of the London universe.) Darn.
The menu is well priced especially eating family-style and the greeting smiles of the staff unbeatable. I can't wait until it rains so we have an excuse to nip back to Cottons and recapture some of those tropical flavours.