The last couple of weeks have been exciting! To celebrate the departure of a dear friend who is moving to the tropics, I set myself the challenge of finding an authentic Caribbean atmosphere to host an island themed leaving party. With two options ticking the menu box, but nowhere near atmospheric, I decided to pop down to the launch party of Cottons Rhum Shack at Boxpark in Shoreditch, London to see if it was a potential hotspot.
Cottons – a chain of Caribbean restaurants around London are much milder than what I was met with on a miserably wet day in London. As soon as I found the little passage way that led to an open plan bar complete with thatched cabana’s named after islands, a Hawaiian garland was slung around my neck and I was invited to sample some of the 250 varieties of rum on offer.
The bar designed to emulate a humble wooden rum shack on a remote Caribbean beach was fully stocked. Sorrel Sling and Jamaican Mule, familiar bevarages found across the West Indies were on offer, but I foolishly opted for the Killer Duppy (forgive an innocent soul seduced by the Caribbean colours in the drink). Before I had time to realise my legs gave way, they were stolen by a soca train led by Samba dancers donning wire bras and sequenced thongs, stomping to the beat of the steel pan and drum. I travelled from Trinidad and Tobago carnival to Rio de Janeiro without leaving the container roof of London’s Boxpark! Festive music was blazing, moreish Caribbean canapés circulating and the limbo pole was set up for the brave backs of those who dared to give it a go.
On my second visit I returned for dinner and tucked into a crispy crabmeat and scallop spring roll with a plum and papaya sauce for an island twist. For my main I chose the curried mutton, pressured cooked just right so it slid off the bone, served with rice ‘n’ peas decorated with Rasta colours. I couldn’t get enough of the very sweet tasting coleslaw and fried plantain that came as a side. The portions are definitely worth the money! The chef’s don’t scrimp on the starters so your left with no room and no need for dessert.
Everything about Cottons Rhum Shack is authentic and that includes the management. Bar manager Andre Laville keeps on top of everything, but does so with a very relaxed demeanor, the waiter steals a whine with you when he hears his favourite soca tune (that would happen in the Caribbean), the Chef’s hailing from Trinidad and Dominica cook traditionally so the food taste just like ‘mamas’ home cooking.
Owner of Cottons, Chris Singham said, ‘We are hoping to give Londoners a taste of what it’s like to sip a cool drink as the sun sets over the beach hut and the island party begins.’
Manager Andre who has worked for Cottons for five years and travels extensively throughout the Caribbean said the vibe was extremely important. ‘The look and feel of Cottons Boxpark was a collaboration between the designers, Chris and me. We paid attention to detail down to considering what pictures went on the wall to simple props and fixtures like displaying Caribbean food brands and seasoning on shelves. It was important for people to come in and feel welcomed, which is why the actual bar was designed to look like a rum shack on a beach in the Caribbean and the restaurant like the inside of your grannies kitchen’.
Cottons Rhum Shack had the perfect island formula for our smashing Caribbean fancy dress party and it’s the best place to bid farewell island style!