Cotton, Manchester NH (July 08)
I'd read a recent thread on CH complaining that Cotton seemed to be slipping. This is one of my fave spots, but I hadn't visit in nearly a year, so I was all "say it isn't so!"
We visited last Sunday and had a great time... IMHO, everything seems as good, if not better(!) than ever...
We sat outside under the lovely grape arboretum (and remained undisturbed despite a mid-dinner shower under the protection of all that greenery and some sturdy umbrellas).
Cotton has switched up their menu since our last visit (a much-needed edit). The cocktail list also has some tempting additions, but we opted for a bottle of Spanish garnacha. It’s easy to find a value priced bottle of vino at Cotton and we were happy with our choice (Spain being our regular plonk provider).
We started with an order of perfectly grilled asparagus and Portobello mushrooms with plenty of thick shards of parmigiano all dressed in a sherry shallot vinaigrette. A very satisfying start to the meal, but not at all heavy so our appetites were just whetted.
I was craving crab cakes, so in lieu of two mains we opted to split an order of crabbies along with the grilled pork special. Cotton’s crab cakes were definitely up to standard, chubby and meaty with that tasty black bean salsa. And you can check out the huge crab shard in my photos.
The pork special involved a large, juicy chop with a balsamic reduction served along with a salad of potato and arugula. The meat was expertly prepared and generous enough that we both felt satisfied splitting the entrée. The presentation had a summer feeling and worked well with the last of the wine.
Dessert was banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. We’ve had this before and while it might err on the side of being slightly sweet and a touch heavy that's perhaps an unfair "complaint" against this very tasty dessert.
Service was friendly and attentive, although we only noted at the end of our meal that we didn’t get a bread basket. We didn’t miss it (obviously) but I find those sorts of oversights slightly annoying, so a minor demerit on that one.
As for Cotton "slipping"... in our experience it's better than ever! A great meal in a very pleasant surrounding and for a completely reasonable price (approx $75 before tip).
Last time we went our waitress arrived immediately at our table, before my fanny hit the seat and she asked if we were ready to order a drink and handed me the wine list and just stood there.... rocking back and forth on her heels! I was like... can I have a moment to look? She said sure and walked away only to come back in less than a minute... asking if we were ready yet. So I dropped the wine list and said "water only please" Hubby did the same because he did not even have a chance to look at it either... then she came back in about 20 seconds with 2 glasses of water (we were sitting directly next to the waitresses water station) asking if we were ready to order!!! By this time we just looked at each other with total disbelief... I put down the menu I had JUST picked up and said "Can we please have 5 minutes?" She said fine... seeming annoyed, and walked away. You guessed it, 2 minutes later she was right there...asking again, so we ordered the Lobster dip appetizer and said we would order the food when the appy arrived.
The lobster dip arrives, and there was ZERO trace of lobster at all, not even a whiff!
Then came the entrees we ordered, you guessed it, while we were halfway into the appetizer…
Hubby’s food came out with very undercooked pasta, and my meatloaf and mashed potato was cooked perfect... too bad there was a large piece of eggshell that I bit into...
This whole the time the manager was on the phone less than 10 feet away arguing with someone about the schedule for the week, so bringing anything to their attention at this point was not an option.
The whole night was so rushed, I felt like I was at a cheap Chinese buffet restaurant at prime "feeding time" when they literally hover over you and toss you your check before you pick up your chopsticks. We were there for less than 45 minutes from the time we arrived until the time we left… That is why I said there is a decline in the quality and service. Maybe it was a bad night, but it was enough to put me off.
Ack - that sounds perfectly awful.
It wasn't our experience, but bad service and bad food would put me off too (nothing more dissonant than an eggshell - ick!).
I'd say give it another go (on the "off night" theory) since our meal really was delightful, but I get why that suggestion might hold zero appeal after your last visit.
I live in manchester too, and it has the same menu last week, as it had a year ago when I went the first time. Hey Rata, if you ever want to have lunch with a fellow chowhound (me..lol) drop me an email at my username @ comcast.net we can explore ManchVegas restos. I have gone out to lunch with another chowster and it was great!
The only reliably "new" things at Cotton lately have been the faces of the service staff... usually not a good sign, in my experience. Let me be quick to add that we've never had anything resembling the service nightmares that GryKeep had, but then again we play it safe by dining at the bar almost exclusively.
I have to agree, the menu's gotten stale... it's just taken me a while to realize it. While I definitely relish the likelihood that the meatloaf will always be on the menu, I personally just cant get too worked up about cold-weather comfort food in the summer, when I'm in a more adventurous mood.
Plus, as my SO notes, mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy do not a happy swimsuit season make.
What bothers me about Cotton is that it is so erratic. We ate there in March and had a wonderful meal, but returned in May and it was pedestrian at best. I should have gone to Z that night.
I went to Cotton last night to see if they had any new entress on the menu (I didn't see any, and I never order appetizers so I wouldn't know if there were changes there), and while normally the service is great, last night I had some of the worst service I've ever had, which ironically was exactly the opposite of what you describe.
I was seated at a table, but my waitress didn't come over for at least seven minutes. Then after placing my order she brought my drink over quickly, but then didn't show up with bread for another seven minutes. Then three minutes later the meal shows up. The waitress did show up in the middle of my meal asking if I'd like another drink, but when I finished the meal it was another seven minute wait for her to show up before I could order dessert. Being near closing time at this point, most tables were empty, yet once I finished my dessert I had to wait another five minutes for the waitress to come by with my bill. It seemed like they had assigned this waitress the bar area, but also to me in the main dining area for some reason.
Oh, and to top it all off, the steak I paid $30 for came with an unappetizing mixture of what appeared to be swiss chard and mushrooms as the vegetable. I hate swiss chard and mushrooms. If I wanted mushrooms, I would have ordered the mushroom sauce on my steak. Every other vegetable side I've ever gotten from cotton has been squash/zuchinni, green beans or something else yummy.
I don't think Cotton is going downhill though. This is one bad experience out of many good ones. My main issues with them are the fact that they haven't changed the menu in two years and they don't have their amazing fish chowder on the lunch menu all the time.