Our new food reviewer, Phoebe, went along to the preview night at the Caribbean restaurant and bar on Wednesday, and found this addition to our High Street to be a colourful mix of spice, strong cocktails and fun!
This week I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the first of the ‘new wave’ of chain restaurants hitting Colchester’s High Street.
Turtle Bay is a Caribbean restaurant and bar based on the High Street close to Fenwicks and sandwiched in between the upcoming Wagamama and Five Guys restaurants and it certainly brings a new flavour to the town centre. The décor is vibrant and fresh, huge murals and trendy neon signs adorn the walls and low hanging lights highlight rustic tables and comfy bench seats.
A huge square bar greets you as you enter which is fitting as Turtle Bay is just as much about its cocktails as it is its food. The bar apparently stocks over 40 hand-picked Caribbean rums! Like the selfless reviewer that I am I worked my way through three of the 26 strong cocktail list, starting with a rum margarita – my favourite and just as tasty with rum as tequila. I then tried a Jamaican Mule, a little too sweet for me but tasty all the same. I finally settled on a Tingwray which the waiter warned me was very strong but it was delicious – Uncle Wray overproof rum and grapefruit crush made a slightly bitter, refreshing cocktail that helped keep me warm on my walk home!
A waitress informed me that in other Turtle Bays, after the food is finished, most diners relocate to the bar area, where there are low tables with comfortable seating for cocktails. It can apparently get quite lively which I can believe given the playlist was a great mix of 90s and 00s RnB and reggae –after a few Tingwray cocktails I could see myself shimmying along to Sean Paul with my girl friends. It’s worth noting that Happy Hour offers 2’4’1 cocktails until 7pm and from 9.30pm Sunday to Thursday and until 7pm and after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Onto the food, the menu is extensive and has everything you’d expect from a Caribbean restaurant. We started with a jerk platter which included jerk wings, pork ribs, Jamaican beef patty, chicken flatbread, sweet corn fritters and a green salad – there was so much food just there that it would be an ideal lunchtime option with a group of friends or colleagues. Our mains included deliciously tender, fruity, jerk chicken and spicy goat curry served with coconut rice n’ peas which perhaps could have been a little more coconutty.
The food was quite spicy and when we asked for some sort of yogurt we were told they didn’t have any which was a shame as one of our table found the food a little too hot. In hindsight it would have been good to have had an extra side of plantain and perhaps when the waiting staff have a little more experience they’ll know to offer that when people’s mouths are on fire!
We were served a side of delicious, doughy dumplings and told they were great dipped into the juices of the mains – I particularly liked mine with the jerk chicken juices. We were then given a selection of puddings and the rum cake was AMAZING, so moist and flavoursome, that will be a staple order for future visits. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options are also available.
In summary, it was simple and fun food and certainly different from what we are used to in Colchester. However, the cocktails and the atmosphere, décor and waiting staff really did make Turtle Bay a brilliant night out. I have already made plans to go back with some girl friends for cocktails over Christmas and highly recommend you do the same.
Turtle Bay Colchester opens on Sunday, 3rd December. See you there!