There’s a conversation which happens quite often in our house: it involves me proclaiming how excited I am about dinner that evening, a certain someone asking me where I’m headed, me responding matter-of-factly with the restaurant name, a certain someone asking where that is… then me looking and feeling rather sheepish because I have no idea. Oops.
What follows is some frantic google mapping and Citymapper tapping and the realisation that it’ll take me 45 minutes to get there but I’ve only got 30 minutes up my sleeve. And it’s in a part of town I’ve never been to which inevitably requires another ten minutes added to the equation because I will have to stop every two metres to check that the little blue dot on google maps in facing the right direction. Did I mention how I’m not great with directions?
On my maiden visits to Stoke Newington and Kensal Green I took a couple of wrong turns and more recently on my way to Rum & Sugar in West India Quay, I probably took the most topsy turvy route ever… but when I did eventually make it there, I was greeted with a cocktail and all was well in the world again. You would have never guessed that the same girl was stood in the middle of the street cursing at google maps, just minutes earlier…
My mood improved even more when the snacks arrived; a few little pastry twists, sweet potato crackers, and chilli cheese fritters, all went down a treat as our little party got to know each other and a little more about the restaurant’s new menu. It sounded sounded good, it looked good on paper, but did it meet expectations in the flesh? In short, yes, but do humour me and let me ramble on a bit.
When I laid eyes on the beetroot cured salmon with smoked potato salad, beetroot and spiced rum puree, I was in heaven… the plating was pretty as a picture, but the salmon itself had a fantastic firm texture and flavour which was perfectly paired with the tangy salad. The next fish course was equally vibrant; a generous piece of cod adorned with a bright green herb crust, sitting on top of a sweet red pepper ragu – a great combination for the subtly sweet cod.
Our main of cajun glazed chicken salad was not the bowl of leaves topped with sliced chicken that I expected… I’m ashamed I even thought that, after two elegant dishes, I really should have given the chef more credit. What arrived was a glistening chicken breast, still succulent and tender, served with a salad of charred gem lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onion, and parmesan in both grated and crisp form which added a nice level of saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the glaze. This was perhaps the least refined of the dishes, but for me, the most comforting and rewarding.
Then for the finale, a dessert which, to be frank, wouldn’t look out of place in some of the more ‘fine dining’ establishments I’ve been to… the baked chocolate ganache with caramelised oranges, salted nut brittle, and clotted cream was incredible. The ganache was smooth and velvety in the middle but it had the thinnest, crisp crust around the outside, and boy was it rich! Without the sharpness from the oranges it would have been too rich and sickly, but judging by the fact I demolished the dish and was tempted it lick the plate, the balance was obviously just right.
At this point I would usually be sitting back and basking in my happily fed glow but on this occasion there was no rest for the wicked, or gluttonous in our case; we were whisked away to the bar for our cocktail masterclass!
I have done a few cocktail classes before and I was hardly a natural then, but can now confirm that I am definitely not moving into mixology anytime soon. I was probably the messiest, my cocktails tasted least like what they were supposed to, and I didn’t have the slightest bit of cocktail shaking flair but it was insanely fun. And funny… as I’m sure some of the photographic evidence can attest to!
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Rum & Sugar when I rushed out the door that evening; with Canary Wharf just across the dock, I imagined West India Quay to be an extension of that soul-less concrete jungle where the restaurants are all chains, churning out the same old slop to work weary bankers. Perhaps this is what their neighbours are doing, but not at Rum & Sugar.
They take pride in themselves as a bar and a restaurant – if you are one of those work weary bankers who could do with an after office beverage, stop in for some excellent cocktails, but also make sure you stay for the food because it’s truly top drawer!
So tell me, do you hang around these parts often?! Have you dined at Rum & Sugar before or even stopped in for a cocktail?
Thanks to the team at Rum & Sugar for a splendid dinner and a hilarious cocktail masterclass, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!