Prior to last Monday, my knowledge of Turtle Bay was somewhat hazy. I knew about their Caribbean-inspired menu but the previous times we had been there, our focus was only on one thing – their cocktails (241 at Happy Hour, might I add). I feel this is something which many others can relate to.
Following some new additions to their menu for the Summer, we were invited to Turtle Bay’s branch on Cheltenham Road, its bright coloured frontage was hard to miss! Inside was equally colourful with large murals adorning the walls, sunshine yellow topped stools lining the huge bar and turquoise blue ceilings. The decor could be a little too much for a group looking for a relaxed, calm environment but given the flamboyant nature of Gloucester Road/ Cheltenham Road area it suited perfectly.
Our cheery waiter of the evening showed us towards a table at the back of the lower floor; there was a second level of seating but that was reserved for busier days. It was relatively quiet on Monday evening (no doubt due to the many festivals that were going on) but there was still a gentle hum of activity which kept the atmosphere alive.
With work looming the following day, and a busy weekend behind us, my companion Helen and I went for a Turtle Bay “Caribbean Soft” option for drinks which all came in around £3.60. My creamy coconut and pineapple punch was delightfully smooth with a welcome tang from the pineapple; Helen’s berry smoothy won the table’s vote though, raspberries and pomegranate blended with condensed milk and fresh cream – delicious! A cross between a smoothie and a milkshake would be a better way to describe the pair.
With our creamy, refreshing beverages, we were prepared for a typically hot Caribbean main after devouring a side of sweet potato fries and mayo (devilishly moreish, I urge you to try them). Of the new seasonal items on the menu, Helen and I orientated towards the one pots on offer, settling on the Bajan Beef Cheeks (£10.80) and Spinach, Aubergine and Sweet Potato Curry (£9.95) with the promise of a hefty, hearty meal.
Both one pots came served in a glass casserole dish with a few triangles of flatbread on the side. With large chunky pieces of beef which easily fell apart as I spooned the rice back into the sauce, my one pot was pleasantly spicy with an agreeable amount of meat in the dish. The Caribbean spices, Orka, Potato, Garlic, star anise, cinnamon, coriander and toasted coconut had no distinct presence however. Rather, the miscellaneous Caribbean spices used seemed to dominate the other flavours to the point that I could single any out which was a shame.
Helen’s vegan curry on the other hand was a greater success with a delicate flavour. The sweet potato, aubergine and spinach combination perfect for a chillier day with a hint of chilli to warm your cockles. Again, the flavour did get lost somewhat in the heat of the dish but Helen seemed to enjoy it for the most part.
The steamed rice accompaniment was pretty uninspiring but it had the right slightly sticky consistency, so that was good.
In sum, the meal was pretty bog-standard for want of a better word. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t noteworthy. With so many amazing eateries in close proximity, the cuisine at Turtle Bay didn’t really match up despite their seasonal menu updates. When it comes to Turtle Bay’s cocktails though, they shall certainly remain a staple fixture in our Gloucester Road/ Stoke Croft bar crawl.
Please note: This meal was partially subsidised but in no way impacted upon the opinions given. Feature Image rights belong to Turtle Bay, apologies for the poor quality of the other images – forgot my big camera!