Aasma Day hot footed it to Preston’s newest restaurant, Turtle Bay, to sample the hot and spicy food on its menu
When the weather is wet and dreary, escaping to the Caribbean to feel hot, hot, hot is everyone’s favourite fantasy.
And the next best thing to the real thing is a visit to Preston’s newest restaurant.
In the years BC (Before Children), Hubby and I actually experienced the sun, sea and sand of the Caribbean ourselves as we went to Jamaica on our honeymoon and absolutely loved the country’s cuisine.
So when we heard the base of Crystal House, the former Oddbins and Burlingtons, was going to be reincarnated as a Caribbean chain Turtle Bay restaurant, we were excited by the prospect of somewhere exotic and different to dine in the city centre.
Our first impressions of the restaurant were extremely positive. There is a very relaxed and funky ambience and the decor managed to be trendy without being intimidating.
The reggae theme is strong, with pictures and music – even the toilets have sinks fitted into colourful metal barrels.
The menu is extensive, with plenty of delicious sounding options.
Turtle Bay clearly welcomes families, as our children were presented with an activity pack. However, we were surprised to find there was no children’s menu. It wasn’t really an issue for us, as our twosome are happy to dine from the regular menu, but it could prove problematic for others.
To kick off our Caribbean feast, Hubby and I went for starters of chilli fried squid and duck rolls (£4.95 each)– and my squid was the clear winner.
Beautifully presented, the crisp spice coated squid came with mango mole, fresh lime and coriander mayonnaise. It was pretty spicy, but incredibly tasty.
After trying a forkful of my squid, Keith found his rolls of shredded duck, onion, tamarind, soy sauce, chilli and sugar cane pleasant enough but a bit bland in comparison.
For mains, I decided to choose the truly authentic Caribbean one pot dish of Blue Mountain curry goat (£9.65), while Hubby went for his favourite dish from Jamaica of a half jerk chicken (£9.95).
With no kiddies menu, our nine-year-old daughter chose the Street Burger from the Lunch ’n’ Light menu (£6.95) – a seasoned burger with jerk glaze – while her twin brother went for the pulled chicken bun which has jerk glazed chicken in a bun served with Caribbean slaw and seasoned fries.
The portion sizes were impressively generous and the food was packed with flavour plus plenty of spice. I could see why they provided jugs of water at the table.
My goat curry was aromatic and appetising – but boy was it hot! My mouth felt it was on fire the whole time I was eating, but it was so delightful I enjoyed every mouthful.
The marinated goat was extremely tender and cooked in a tasty sauce with carrots and potatoes and served with traditional Caribbean rice ’n’ peas plus a piece of grilled flatbread.
It was high praise indeed from Hubby when he pronounced his Jerk Chicken as good as the one he had in Jamaica. The 12 spice and herb marinated grilled chicken was perfectly cooked and nicely spicy and served with tasty Caribbean slaw and sweet potato fries.
The sweet potato fries are worthy of a review of their own, as they were absolutely heavenly. If you haven’t had them before, you’re missing out on a real treat.
It was a thumbs up from each of our children, too, as their burgers were tasty and the portions were substantial and plenty to satisfy an adult let alone a child. However, they found the seasoned fries a touch hot for their liking, but managed them all with the aid of plenty of gulps of water.
We loved our meals. However, we were conscious that the food might be too hot for some tastes and we felt the menu would benefit from a spice rating next to its dishes.
Even though we were full, we decided we had a tiny square each for puddings (all £4.85 each). The children went for the spiced chocolate pot, which came with orange zest and coconut shavings and coconut ice cream, Hubby had the rum and raisin bread pudding and I chose the Spanish Town Sundae, described as fresh mango, pineapple and banana, mango sorbet and coconut ice cream.
The spiced chocolate pots were great, with a lovely sharp afterkick with every spoon. However, we felt the dish would have been better presented in a deep round pot rather than the shallow dish it came in.
Hubby enjoyed his rum and raisin pudding, which was a great balance of dark rum, cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar with vanilla ice cream.
My choice of dessert was the only disappointing element of my meal.
Despite its description, there was no banana to be found and the mango sorbet was also absent. Instead, a mango puree was drizzled through the fruit.
And although the menu stated it was fresh mango and pineapple, it definitely tasted like it came from a tin.
But with everything else being spot on, this didn’t overshadow the meal and we loved the way Turtle Bay manages to attract both diners and drinkers with its fun looking bar and delicious rum cocktails which are two for one at selected times.
Turtle Bay brings a much needed splash of colour to Preston city centre and makes a refreshing change from the usual, run-of-the-mill chain eating establishments.
Don’t worry… be happy. You will be after a visit to this place – even if it does leave your mouth on fire.