If you’re a Newcastle native you’ve probably heard about the opening of a certain Caribbean restaurant earlier this month and if you’ve stumbled across this post in search of a review of what Turtle Bay has to offer, welcome! I hope my mutterings are of some use.
Before I get stuck into the nitty gritty of this post, I shall confess that when I attended the press event for Turtle Bay just a few weeks ago it wasn’t my first visit to a Turtle Bay restaurant and neither was it my last visit. You see, I’m on pretty friendly terms with one of the staff members, so I’d already been to the Turtle Bay in York before his interview and I’ve since been to one of the friends and family evenings at Newcastle too. Despite the close connection I’ll be giving as balanced a view as I can in this post, starting with the facts…
Turtle Bay is in the old coop building near the entrance to the Gate. It’s directly opposite the Debenhams entrance to Eldon Square, which means it’s in a good spot for a shopping day lunch or is in an ultra convenient location to start a night on the town with some food and half price cocktails. The deco, like the cocktails, is loud, colourful and hard to ignore. The floor is a mix of table sizes – you can tell that they are targeting groups of friends and family as well as the date crowd and they do it well – who doesn’t like extended BOGOFF cocktail happy hours and large portions of food?
Most of the main courses at Turtle Bay come in around the £10 mark and are filling to boot. There is also a good selection of vegetarian options, so it ticks all the boxes as a potential crowd pleaser. When I visit a chain restaurant it’s most often with a large group for a birthday and Las Iguanas has often been my go-to in the past.
One of the founders of Turtle Bay was also previously an owner in Las Iguanas and they’ve clearly taken some of the best bits over to the new business and added in a little Caribbean hospitality for good measure. I’ll share some of my snaps of the food below, but if you’d like to peruse what’s on offer for yourself here’s a shortcut to the Turtle Bay menu, The website though very colourful seems to be a little clunky sometimes – maybe something for the company to concentrate on as they expand. That said, I did use it to book a table when I visited York and found the system very smooth – in addition to confirmation they followed up with an enquiry about how the visit went, which shows the strong emphasis on customer service.
You should find the staff at Turtle Bay surprisingly upbeat even on a wet Wednesday or snowy Sunday – it’s kind of their ‘thing’ and when you’re looking for cocktail recommendations or have umpteen queries about what’s in the food, it’s nice to have someone smiling back at you. Unfriendly service is one of my biggest peeves, to win my loyalty you need to be friendly, know your menu and offer some great grub. And on those fronts Turtle Bay scores well. Now on to what was consumed…..
As I was driving I stuck to alcohol free cocktails. This is the coconut and pineapple punch and a passion fruit cooler. The punch contains condensed milk and cream, so it’s not exactly low calorie but if like me, you love a pina colada – this one or its alcoholic counterpart the Koko Kalada is for you. If you’re more of a beer person. they have some bottled ales and beers along with the familiar Jamaican Red Stripe and Guinness and there’s a few familiar white. red and rose wines to choose from too,
Starters were served up on a board at the event and if you yourself like a bit of snatch and grab you could try the beach food platter (jerk chicken wings, pepper roti, sweet corn fritters) , which is what the above essentially is. albeit with the addition of some rather lovely duck rolls in place of the usual garlic and herb flatbread. The pepper roti was my favourite – potatoes, carrots, peppers, cheese and scotch bonnet – that’s essentially a spicy cheese pasty, right? I love a good cheese pasty.
Next was a selection of the mains, sides and light bites. Left to right Rastafari run down, whole jerk chicken with a side of sweet potato fries with cheese, jerk chicken toasties and goat curry). As a bean hater I dodged the butter beans in the vegetarian Rastafari run down but the sauce itself was very nice. I was a tad frustrated at the difficulty in eating the sweetcorn though, which was left on the cob and so eating it was a messy affair. I filled up far too much on the melt-in-the-mouth goat curry to leave much space for the jerk chicken but know from oohs and aaahs elsewhere on the table it was a big hit. The sweet potato fries were very nice and all but I’d already stuffed in a few bits of plantain and some dumplings, which I couldn’t help but feel were a more natural accompaniment to the curry.
Personally, I probably wouldn’t order a toastie while out at Turtle Bay – the chicken one was jam packed and tasty (though I wasn’t keen on the concept of a salmon and goat cheese version) but I can see why it’s on the menu. If you wanted to grab a snack while shopping the toastie might weigh you down a little less than some of the regular mains, which really are generous portions. I’ve eaten at Turtle Bay three times now and still haven’t finished three full courses. Mind you, I haven’t been choosing the salad or lighter options.
We sampled a few puddings that in truth didn’t photograph well because they were smaller versions served up for sharing. The brownie (which I believe is gluten free) was warm and gooey as it should be, though a mite sweet for my taste. I loved the simplicity of the Caymanas rum cake, which was essentially a sponge soaked with a warm rum-laden caramel. I have the banana and toffee cheesecake and poached mango earmarked for future visits.
So, the overall verdict? If you’re looking for a great value meal out with a group of friends Turtle Bay has a lot of the bases covered – not least great portions and those extended happy hours between 12 and 7pm and again 10pm-close. Some dishes are not perhaps as full of spice as they would be were you in the Caribbean and when trying to cater for the wider public I guess this is to be expected. We Geordies love a bargain and a warm welcome, so I think Turtle Bay will do well.
Have you been yet? What did you try and how did you find it?