Turtle Bay brought a burst of colour and excitement to Bristol’s city centre when it opened earlier this year.
Serving Caribbean cuisine in a fun and relaxed environment it seemed that Turtle Bay could help to satiate Bristol’s appetite for Caribbean food. So what did we make of it when we went for lunch recently?
The restaurant itself is beautiful, very colourful, funky colours, nice furnishings, reggae music playing in the background. As we walked through the restaurant to our table, it really did feel a bit like being on holiday!
The menu is varied, from cocktails, to nibbles and sharing platters, to bigger meals and lighter bites. We opted for the “Lunch n light” menu which was a selection of 12 dishes at the bargain price of just £6.45 each. Perfect for the lunch time budget.
Sam chose the jerk pork bun, which was pulled jerk pork served with caribbean coleslaw and fries. It was a generous portion and he enjoyed the pork a lot, saying it was well flavoured and well cooked. The fries were nice and crunchy and well seasoned with spices to give them a great taste.
Whilst Sam tucked into his pork bun, I worked my way through the plate of lunch jerk ribs. Marinated pork ribs in honey BBQ glaze with sour orange chutney, served with fries and slaw and I also got a slide of plantain.
The ribs were a reasonable size with a fair amount of meat on each one, although nothing to really shout about. The sauce, I just couldn’t make my mind up about. Rather than a separate orange chutney and BBQ glaze it all seemed to be in one and I wasn’t convinced on the combination of flavours.
For some mouthfuls the ribs were sweet and rich, but for others, the sour orange undertones were really quite offensive, burning my tongue and reminding me of off fruit gone “fizzy”.
The slaw was good. Nice and crunchy with interesting and spicy flavours and I enjoyed the plantain too. Sweet and well cooked with a soft but still firm texture.
A bit of a meal of two halves really. My ribs were clearly a bit of a disappointment. On one hand you could argue that this was a poor menu choice on my part – but should such a thing ever really exist?
That said, the good points probably outweigh the bad. My boyfriend really enjoyed his pork bun, service was friendly, albeit a little unattentive (we had to go and find the bill ourselves), the restaurant had a nice atmosphere and the price was very reasonable.
Some of the food is definitely more caribbean inspired as opposed to authentic caribbean cuisine. Whilst dishes like curried goat, and ingredients like plantain do make an appearance, so do burgers and flatbreads served with a caribbean twist. But this will appeal to a lot of people and is a good solution for less adventurous diner – I’m certainly not knocking it
As is often the case with chains, you need to be realistic about what they are and what to expect. What chain restaurants do very well is produce a particular type of food, on mass, in a way that most of us will enjoy – and we do.
On the food quality alone, chains rarely stand up to their independent counterparts and I think the same goes for Turtle Bay with the likes of Rice and Things, Plantation, and even Caribbean Wrap blowing them out of the water on quality and authenticity.
But, Turtle Bay is clearly a restaurant which is going to do well. Its ploughed lots of resource into creating a beautiful eating environment which feels fun and attractive – and they achieve this brilliantly. It is a fun and enjoyable environment to eat in, offering something for everyone and will introduce the colours and flavours of caribbean cuisine to lots of hungry Bristolians – and this, can’t be a bad thing.