Tag Archives: notting hill

London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?


Rain, stabbings and Digital Soundboy shut-down at Notting Hill Carnival


So, Notting Hill Carnival was a pretty soggy affair this year. I still haven’t managed to wring all the water out or my clothes and my Converse are looking pretty sorry for themselves right now. Despite the rain and the disappointment at not seeing some of my favourite acts, we had a bloody good day out and made loads of friends. I’m not sure if it beat my first time at the event last summer, even though we only went on the Sunday, but it is definitely the sort of event that calls for sunshine – you can’t dance to reggae and eat Jamaican jerk chicken in the rain. Taking place on the August bank holiday weekend, you would expect that we would be in for a few rays, but apparently not! Instead, it was wet, very, very wet.image

We caught the train to London first thing and were more than excited to return to the Carnival and on the main day this time – plus with a line-up on the Digital Soundboy stage that included Shy FX, Chase and Status, Lily Allen, Mark Ronson, Gorgon City, Sigma, David Rodigan and B Traits among many others – we couldn’t wait to get dancing. We had been checking the weather forecast every day in the run-up to Monday, and those dark clouds were threatening but we remained positive and although laden with macs and umbrellas, we prayed the sun would shine. Last year the forecast wasn’t great but about lunchtime the sun came out and shone all day – it was gorgeous! This year, we were disappointed to say the least and spent the day trying to avoid the huge puddles, to find the smallest bit of shelter and to dance at stages that with busted speakers. It sounds rubbish, but don’t be fooled – we had a fantastic day and made lots of friends – we didn’t even mind the rain until the music all stopped and we had no more distractions. Then it was a very long, cold and wet train journey home.


After arriving in London, we headed straight to Westbourne Park Station and took a stroll along the road – immediately enveloped in the spicy smells of jerk chicken, goat curry and various other tasty carnival delights. The streets were lined with people and various sound systems at bars and houses along the road. We walked straight into the parade, which I had heard had a late start due to the weather, but they were out in full force and we shaking their tail feathers to the sound of steel drums. The beats from the parade are so strong that you can’t help but dance and we found a good spot in a doorway to watch the parade from a height – strangely we bumped into two friends from home who were already standing there! It was brilliant and helped us stay dry for a short time. After three floats of extravagant costumes and great music filed past, we headed back towards the station with a mojito in hand to find the Digital Soundboy stage – where everyone seemed to be heading.imageimage

Our spirits stayed high despite the rain and we were looking forward to a good dance,  but sadly we arrived at the Digital Soundboy stage to find no music, just waiting crowds. We stuck around for a bit, then decided to wander around the block and found some great smaller sound systems that had the music going full pelt and everyone dancing. Later, when we headed back to Digital Soundboy we found that again, there was no music and someone told us apparently a generator had broken. Gutted wasn’t the word, we, like countless others had travelled great distances to see this top list of acts play and now none of them would be playing. I understand that it was bad luck that a generator broke, but was there really no way of getting another delivered, or even borrowing one from one of the smaller stages – everyone would have appreciated it considering they had turned out in the pouring rain. I was also surprised to see no signs around explaining what had happened, we only found out by luck after chatting to someone in the crowd as we had no signal on our phones to check the Facebook or Twitter pages – perhaps better communication might have helped.imageimage

With music off the cards – we found it pretty difficult to navigate our way to another stage so hung out at the smaller ones – we made it our business to have as much fun as possible. We made lots of friends, had a good laugh with lots of fantastic people including some guys who went to our last festival – BoomTown Fair, and lots of others from our home town. The atmosphere is one of the things I love most about Notting Hill Carnival, everyone is so friendly and happy and just wants to have a good time. We had lots of fun dancing like idiots and taking rain-soaked pictures of our sexy mascara-sodden faces, while basically walking round in circles. I even walked into a portaloo and found two people shagging in the toilet – a new low? It was pretty funny and certainly kept our minds off being wet until the very end when all the stages shut down and suddenly we had no more distractions – we all just looked at each other and realised quite how soggy we were. Cue a soggy tube ride back to King’s Cross and an attempt to use hand dryers in the toilets to dry our clothes – it was not happening. Every item of clothing was drenched and I don’t even want to talk about the state of my shoes.image

Others were also having a rather interesting train ride home and were attracting quite a lot of attention – reckon she must have been pretty chilly! It was pretty gutting when we finally sat down on our train home and realised we had two hours of being soaking wet before we were home – thankfully the time flew by and we finally arrived home and could jump in a hot shower, some warm, dry clothes and bed. It was such a good feeling after such a long day of being so wet and cold. I definitely had a great time at Carnival but it’s not a good event to do in the rain – there is little to no shelter around the route and no escaping the elements. Plus no matter how waterproof your shoes, coat or umbrellas are marketed as being, when faced with constant rainfall over a day, they lose their waterproof abilities a wee bit. Not so much of a problem if you live in the city and can get home quickly, but when sat in a puddle the whole way home, it kills your mood a little bit.

I forgot to mention that this year we really noticed the more violent side of Carnival, one of the girls we met had been punched by some crazy girl with an attitude problem, we saw a girl and her boyfriend having a pretty full on fight and we were right next to where one of the policemen got stabbed. We were just walking along the road when police started roping off the road and I just assumed the parade was about to arrive, but the policeman told me to move back along the street because a policeman had just been stabbed. I know that this happens a lot of the main day of the Carnival and that lost of drugs and violent incidents occur, although lower numbers of them this year. But I just don’t understand how anyone could turn such a pure, fun, friendly and happy event like Notting Hill Carnival into something unsafe and aggressive. This applies to all of the festivals where violent incidents are recorded – these people are idiots. It takes a lot of organising and planning to put on an event of this scale and yet it takes one stupid and dangerous incident to close an event down. People acting rashly and stupidly seriously risks the lives of revellers and it risks future fun if the event is no longer allowed to run. Think before you act.image image

Did you brave the rain to go to Notting Hill Carnival this year? How did you think it compared to previous years? Were you disappointed by the shut-down of the Digital Soundboy stage?