Food: 6.5 Atmosphere: 8 Drink: 8 Overall: 7
Bright, colourful and upbeat, Turtle Bay will leave you with a smile on your face. Good vibes, friendly staff and killer cocktails make this the perfect place to kick off the weekend.
With 15 destinations around the country, Turtle Bay’s two restaurants in Bristol will surprise you. The atmosphere is lively, energetic and young. Wooden decking, graffiti wall murals and colourful lanterns transport you away from the city, giving you an authentic snapshot of the Caribbean. The colours are sunny and bright, matching the upbeat Reggae and Dancehall music. The down stairs is busy, the upstairs more intimate; both genuinely give you the feeling everyone there is enjoying themselves, and you can’t help but join in. Perhaps it is the friendly staff, or the welcoming décor, but Turtle Bay’s inclusive vibe makes it so much more homely than you would expect from a chain of its size.
The cocktails here are knockout, in flavour and strength. Interesting and extensive, expect a tropical twist on the classics that everyone offers- a ‘Marley Mojito’, pimped out with watermelon; ‘Roots Culture’, balancing the sweetness of strawberry and raspberry liquor with copious amounts of alcohol; and Goombay Smash, that does exactly what it says on the tin. Cocktails that pack a punch, at more than reasonable prices (£7.15, but 2-4-1 after 10pm and before 7pm!), what’s not to love? Turtle Bay would make a great place to stop off before heading on a night out in Stokes Croft- good music and cheap booze capping off the perfect pres.
The food menu has recently undergone a redo, and thought has clearly gone into it. The menu is a vibrant mix of tasty Caribbean flavors, built around street food and sharing classics. It's like the feast cooked up by the Jamaican grandmother you never knew you had. Jerk spice mix and BBQ feature heavily around a range of meaty numbers, such as marinated jerk chicken, sticky glazed pork ribs and slow-cooked goat curry. The marinades were on point for both starter and mains; real spices, mixed by a real chef. Light eaters don’t be put off though as the veg and fish starters are some of the highlights of the meal- spicy, deep fried okra with crispy panko bread crumbs; crispy chili squid served with mango, fresh lime and mayo; and garlic and chili prawns covered in a herb and chili butter were our favorites on this new menu. For something light, try adding one of these starters to their beach salads, which are fresh and full of flavour. The sharing platters are good, but a mixed bag. The Just Jerk and the Vital Veggie Platter have some of the treats above on them, but you’ll also run into some pretty stodgy Sweet Corn Fritters, a Caribbean-style dumpling, and slightly bland, stale pop corn.
Although this restaurant will make a name for itself through its cocktails and starter snack food, their mains and puddings let them down. Chains like this often cut corners on their puddings, with more emphasis on quantity over quality in their mains, and it was slightly unsurprising our desserts were lacking finesse. The Spiced Rum Chocolate Pot with Coconut Ice Cream was effectively melted down chocolate bars, and the Rum and Raisin Bread Pudding was on the denser side of heavy.
Turtle Bay’s menu is new. In some aspects they have hit the nail on the head and they should continue focusing on these strong points. It feels as if these guys are still finding their feet on the food front, but with a few loose ends tied up, Turtle Bay has the potential to be a chain that everyone flocks to week-in-week-out.
https://www.turtlebay.co.uk/#anchor-find-book Cheltenham Road, City Centre
Photography: Turtle Bay