Camden Lock. Busy, noisy, full of goths and even punks still (I didn’t realise they still existed). Food-wise it’s pretty easy to find places to avoid, mainly by the smell of greasy noodles and stale meat under heat lamps. So where to go when you actually do want something to eat. Porky’s serves fantastic American true BBQ and you could follow up with nitrogen-frozen ice cream at Chin-Chin labs. Yum-cha serves excellent cheap dim-sum from the most unassuming of restaurants. So can I add Cottons to that list for Caribbean food and rhum?
Situated halfway towards Chalk Farm and with a fairly non-descript exterior I must have walked past a hundred times or so. But this time I decided to venture in and give it a go. First impressions weren’t brilliant, admittedly it was quite late on Sunday afternoon but it looked quite deserted. Walking through the bar we saw a few people dining and carried on through. It is separated into smaller rooms which are a bit dark and claustrophobic, I suppose at night they could appear cosier. Menus were brought quickly and we were offered drinks from the long list of rum cocktails and short list of beers. I opted for a classic Dark and Stormy and the wife went for a bottle of Carib (ostensibly to recall our honeymoon in Grenada). It was a decent enough cocktail, slightly sharp perhaps but plenty of lime and booze. We were brought some thick slices of white brioche and butter which went down well, despite not being the most refined bread option.
We opted to share a couple of meat starters and then split the mixed jerk fish grill since we weren’t overly hungry. Our first starter was spring onion skewers which was presented very well. The thigh meat was cooked beautifully, making them tender and juicy. Served with a quite spicy sauce and lots of onion to punch it up, it was full of flavour and an excellent start. The ribs were good if not quite as punchy. The ribs had plenty of meat and were drizzled with a quite piquant sharp sauce, I just wish the meat was a bit more tender (maybe a slightly slower cook was needed). Served with crispy onions this was still a great starter though and I loved the unusual sauce, perhaps it was tamarind based?
The mixed jerk fish grill came next, with plantain and rice ‘n peas. A decent portion arrived (especially for one!) with 3 types of fish and a solitary prawn. The same sauce as the ribs starter was in a pot (fair enough since they’re both jerk options) and helped moisten the rice and the whole dish. The rice ‘n peas were fine, with proper “peas” although maybe a few more would have been nice. The plantain was excellent and unusually served in the skin. Firm and sweet it cut through the jerk sauce deliciously. The fish was OK given the context, but 2 of the pieces in particular were overcooked and needed lots of sauce. The single prawn was cooked to death and quite unappealing. Trying to serve 3 pieces of fish and prawns with sides is tricky for £15, but I’d rather either have a more expensive or smaller portion with fresher fish. One of the fish was still juicy although quite a few bones were present in all of them.
So, a mixed bag overall. Excellent starters but a disappointing main which while OK lacked quality produce and needed some more refined cooking. The prices aren’t hugely cheap, but aren’t expensive either so I feel I will give it another go at some point in the future. Perhaps their meat platter shows the better side of their cooking. The rum list is very impressive (see the photo below) so I’ll definitely be back to run through that in more detail.