where shall we meet?

Cottons Gallery Caf
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Cottons Gallery Caf, NW1

Cottons looks shut from the outside: the lighting is dim and the door resembles one of those that banks nail on when they reposess you. Don't be fooled: this Jamaican bar-restaurant, with a fine view of Safeway's garage, is alive, kicking and likeable. The combination of stripped plaster, attractive - if occasionally rickety - metal furniture, soul and reggae played at a volume just below uncomfortable and extremely potent rum cocktails and toddies at £3.50-£4.95 will lull you into a good mood in minutes, and a bowl of chillied ragga prawns will clear out those bunged-up sinuses in seconds. The marinated olives (75p) are the best I've had in a bar. Top notch for cool without condescension.

Cottons Gallery Caf, 55 Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 (0171-482 1096)

Serena Mackesy