Part of the Family but Definitely its Own Personality
The latest member of the Cottons family shows flashes of its antecedence – not least in its 300 rums and West Indian inspired food – but Cottons Rum Shack Vauxhall retains its own feel
Review by Martin Stickley
Back in January this year I was lucky enough to be invited to an Angostura rum master class at Cottons Salon de Rhum in London’s Notting Hill where I had a wonderful time sampling all manner of rum-based cocktails before being treated to their themed tasting menu. So, when I was given the opportunity to visit the latest addition to the Cottons’ family I jumped at the chance. Cottons Caribbean Restaurant & Rum Shack has recently opened its doors at St Georges Wharf, Vauxhall and although this is their first south London site, it now takes the London portfolio up to four restaurants and bars.
Cottons Vauxhall has a remarkably different feel to the one I visited previously. Firstly, it is much more spacious featuring a large, airy indoor restaurant decorated with the familiar Caribbean colours but this time with an almost Tiki-esque vibe. The bar surround and furniture makes it feel more refined and one gets the impression that the St George’s Wharf incarnation takes itself a little more seriously, but don’t let this put you off in any way, it still offers everything you would expect from Cottons; an exotic atmosphere which resonates with the spirit of the Caribbean. There is also additional seating on the exclusive river-facing outside terrace which offers glorious views across the Thames. I can see this being a huge hit in the summer so take my tip and try and time your visit for sunset, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I don’t wish to descend into a side-by-side comparison of two equally talented members of the same family as that wouldn’t be fair to either; one of the things which I have learnt after visiting both venues is that whilst they are clearly cut from the same cloth, each has its own distinct personality. I’ve been informed that the same can be said of the menu with each Cottons’ rendition having a slightly different way of preparing their dishes based on the local audience’s tastes. Whilst I’d have to visit all their restaurants to completely ratify this, I can confirm that the food at St George wharf is excellent with the kind of innovative menu you come to expect from Cottons with each dish inspired by traditional cuisine from islands such as Jamaica and Margarita. The salt fish fritters are an absolute must as a starter if you’re looking for some authentic Caribbean fayre, the spiced chutney and chilli jam fizzes through this West Indian classic. It’s great to see a good variety of main dishes on offer; the menu isn’t fussy or over-complicated yet features a respectable balance between meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. The spiced coconut bouillabaisse (featuring a bold medley of scallops, lobster, squid and seabass in a potato and scotch bonnet rouille) is a seafood bonanza which would warm even the coolest of cockles and the Guyanese Pepper Pot with Creole potatoes is as rich and satisfyingly spiced a dish as I have ever had.
With Cottons Rum Shack Vauxhall, you’re essentially getting the benefit of all the things which have made this chain successful; a carefully created and regionally authentic menu, welcoming and knowledgeable staff and of course the jewel in the Cottons crown; a simply astonishing range of rums (you can still choose from 300 different rums at the bar) which subsequently creates a cocktail list most bars can only dream of. Where Cottons St George’s Wharf comes into its own is with its location. The riverside setting really is a huge attraction perfect for the summer months. There are also a few twists to the menu which make it stand apart from its siblings. Aside from the standard menu Cottons Vauxhall now also offers a range of Caribbean inspired pizzas at lunch times or simply as a bar snack. Another first for the Vauxhall incarnation is the extensive breakfast menu which would be ideal to enjoy on the al fresco terrace on summer mornings. Whilst we may be slipping into the winter months I for one will be keeping this in mind come spring!
Enquiries: Cottons Rum Shack Restaurant Vauxhall, Unit 12, St George’s Wharf, London SW8 2LE / http://cottons-restaurant.co.uk/vauxhall/
Cottons Vauxhall is also launching bottomless brunch & brunch launching weekend 10th/ 11th/ 12th November.
DJs will be playing laid back reggae and more throughout the opening weekend.
Diners will be able for go bottomless all day every Friday, Saturday & Sunday with two hours of unlimited mimosas or prosecco or Cottons answer to the Bloody Mary, the Rum Mary, added to any breakfast or brunch order.