There was a time when rum in the UK existed in little more than Bacardi and Malibu varieties to be enjoyed with a splash of diet coke for the conservative sorts or a mix of pineapple juice for the more adventurous. But the Caribbean spirit has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence over the past decade.
Two years ago it was cocktails, with a craze for the mojito cocktail helping rum to become the UK’s fastest-growing spirit, but today it’s a demand for niche brands and an appreciation for rum served neat that has boosted demand and created a new generation of rum fanatics. Something Cottons Caribbean Restaurant is looking to cash in on.
Originally opened in Camden over 30 years’ ago the tiki-style eatery with contagious Caribbean spirit houses a Salon de Rhum with the largest collection of rum in the UK. More than 300 varieties stand proudly behind the central bar which is adorned with multicoloured bamboo. Marinated exotic fruit-filled jars are also on display on the wood shelving, a key ingredient in the renowned Cottons cocktails.
TLE visited Cottons latest addition to their empire on a warm Wednesday evening with the blue skies and summery vibes providing all the inspiration one needs to indulge in a healthy selection of Caribbean inspired cocktails. More than twenty inspired concoctions are listed on the menu, each accentuating the characteristics of the diverse selection of rums on offer.
There is little room to play it safe. Havana 3 mixed with a beetroot reduction, a half-and-half of pina colada and frozen Daiquiri with edible flowers and the Killer Doppi of four rums are among the most innovative, but the one that really jumped off the page was the Smokin Hot: Dark rum and Bourbon with demerara and blackberry syrup, tarragon infusion , orange and angostura bitters served smoking.
If it’s rum you’re after, this is undoubtedly the place. And diners can enjoy bar snacks and sharing plates such as Jerk pork ribs, Oxtail and bean stew and Ackee and saltfish. But you’d be foolish not to indulge in The Glass House main restaurant which is positioned towards the rear of the restaurant.
A large skylight allows natural light to shine directly into the open plan room, with authentic décor sitting atop oak wood flooring with a scattering of bonsai plants. The al a carte menu is a delightful mix of vibrant fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, with glazed pork, crayfish and baby back ribs among the best of the entrees on a competitive list.
The main course is an extravagant affair no matter what you choose, so prepare to be dazzled. The Guyanese 48 hour slow cooked Beef pepper pot with fondant potatoes was my personal pick and didn’t disappoint. The hearty serving of tender meat left to mix with potatoes, veg and spices created an absolute knock-out dish, washed down with a bold Trivento Malbec. Equally appealing dishes such as the seafood casserole, curried lamb and cornmeal dumplings or the Chargrilled Amchar Masala Lamb shoulder would have also, I’m sure, rendered the same response.
Overall Cottons comes up trumps amongst a plethora of Carribean offerings in the area. Its diverse range of rum is celebrated throughout the restaurant in dishes and cocktails, and despite not being a big rum fan usually, I felt my allegiance shifting after tasting a few of the lesser-known brands neat.