Turtle Bay: A slice of sunshine

There’s a new restaurant in town.

Taking the place of Strada in the Cornerhouse complex, Turtle Bay promises to “transport you to the Caribbean without a plane ticket”. So, with the temperature rapidly dropping outside, it would have been rude not to take them up on their offer…

We visited on a chilly Thursday evening and were pleasantly surprised from the second we walked in the door. Anyone who ever visited Strada when it was there will no doubt remember a vast, cavernous restaurant that never really seemed to have many customers in it – despite the fact they did what I thought were some of the best pizzas in town.

I was expecting Turtle Bay to look pretty similar, except maybe with the odd palm tree thrown in for good measure, but the place has been totally transformed.

In the middle stands a large beach bar where you can enjoy pre-dinner drinks, while at the back the main seating area takes the form of a sort of giant wooden beach shack, all white-washed wood and twinkly lights.

While it’s a far cry from a Jamaican beach, it’s a pretty good attempt and certainly the closest you’re going to get in the centre of Nottingham.

But would the food match up to the surroundings?

‘Cutters’, or starters, are all £4.95 – except one or two which incur a 50p supplement – and there’s a decent selection to choose from. I opted for the Jerk Pit Prawns, whole king prawns flavoured with garlic, chilli and herbs, which were served with roti flatbread.

My husband chose the salt fish fritters, which came with what was simply described as ‘a hot sauce’.

The prawns were enormous and smelt delicious. Smothered in a herby butter with flecks of chilli, they looked amazing but when it came to actually tackling them I seemed to end up with most of the butter on my hands instead of in my mouth. It probably says more about my inability to deconstruct prawns properly, rather than the quality of the food, but by the time I’d take off all the shells I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed with what I was left with. The prawns themselves didn’t really taste of much, and a finger bowl might have been a good idea. Definitely not one to pick on a first date unless you think you can slurp garlic butter off your fingers seductively..

The roti flatbread was also a little disappointing, there just wasn’t much of it, and because it had been sitting underneath the prawns it had soaked up all the juice and ended up a little limp and soggy.

I’ve nicked this picture off the Turtle Bay website as the ones I tried to take didn’t really do them justice – but this gives you a pretty good idea of the presentation and portion sizes.

The fritters were large and golden, and had a lovely crispy texture on the outside. They probably could have done with a touch more saltfish in them, but they went beautifully with the tangy hot sauce. A word of warning though – it really is hot! Even after several large gulps of pinot my mouth was still burning. But, hey, if it gives you an excuse to drink more wine, who’s complaining?

For our main courses we both opted for classic dishes. I really liked the sound of the banana leaf fish and the studded lamb, but the jerk chicken won out for me, while my husband chose the Blue Mountain Curry Goat. Both came in at just under £10 each and portion sizes were huge, so huge in fact that we struggled to fit both our plates on our table. Thankfully we managed to avoid any embarrassing dinner-in-lap situations.

For me, the jerk chicken was the star of the show – half a chicken, covered in a rich, sticky brown sauce. The menu describes it as being cooked on the restaurant’s ‘jerk pit’. The skin was chargrilled and beautifully crisp in places, while the inside of the chicken was moist and tender.

It was served with the ubiquitous rice and peas, which were really tasty and helped to counteract the mild spice of the chicken. For me, the heat levels were just about right, but there are others who might find it’s not quite as spicy as they’re used to.

This picture probably doesn’t really show it in its best light, but you get the idea….

The curry goat is one of several dishes on the menu described as a ‘one pot’, which are all served in a huge cast iron pot. Succulent pieces of  slow-cooked goat were nestled in a tomato-based sauce, alongside chunks of sweet potato. The flavours are aromatic, rather then really spicy, and it made a nice change from the Indian-inspired curries we’re all more used to.

Again, it was accompanied by rice and peas, and it’s not often my husband leaves any food on his plate, but even he couldn’t manage the whole portion. Prices aren’t cheap, but, unlike some restaurants, you get plenty of food for your money.

Beaten by the curry, he couldn’t manage a dessert but I couldn’t resist the sound of the banana and toffee cheesecake. Needless to say, it was delicious and, once again, a huge portion.

We left feeling absolutely stuffed, but definitely a touch sunnier – and that was without even touching any of the restaurant’s 40 different types of rum..


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