I admit to being a bit snooty about some restaurant chains; turning my nose up at faux Italian names and microwaved tapas. Tried once and never to return. However not all chains are created equal. Wahaca, Wagamama and Pho for example, are all places I happily revisit. And as of this week I add Turtle Bay to that list.
I’d heard good things about Turtle Bay, but we’d just not made it into one. Then a new branch opened and we were invited to try a taste of the Caribbean for ourselves at Turtle Bay Blackburn.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been into Blackburn centre and it is looking very smart with the newly created cathedral quarter looking great.
We visited on a Thursday night and Turtle Bay was busy by the time we arrived at 7.30pm. What a bustling place! We were both immediately taken with the interior: thousands of fairy lights covering the windows, chunky wooden tables, a Red Stripe canopy above our seating which gave the impression of a street food hut or beach bar. And of course lots of Caribbean colours. Andrew loved the fact that the wall behind my head was mirrored, so even though he was facing in he could still see what was happening.
We had to go for jerk spices to start. Andrew went old-school with jerk chicken wings. Marinated for 24 hours there was a proper kick to them and it was a generous size portion as well. My jerk pit prawns were monster, meaty tiger prawns, cooked over a grill. The spice was more subtle so’s not to overwhelm the tasty prawn meat, but still it left my lips a tingling! There was roti flatbread too for mopping up the spicy juice.
Main courses are split into two categories: one pots and BBQ. We both went for one pots which, as the name suggests, serves up an entire meal in an enamel pot with a spoon to dig in.
My curry goat was just as it should be- full apart tender. The meat had a gingery marinade so was more spikey than hot. It came with a cornucopia of carbs: rice and peas, potato and Caribbean dumplings. The dumplings are fried dough, and were a bit sweet. Oh my gosh they were like crack! Two came with the meal and I had to force myself to leave some, and some rice and potato, so I could manage a dessert. Kinda wish I’d asked for a doggy bag in hindsight…
Andrew had curry pork cheeks, and I can safely say that they were the highlight of the night. Again a long marinade and slow cook, this time in coconut milk and spice. I love to cook pork cheek in my slow cooker at home, but never have they been as buttery, meltingly tender as these. Along with the rice and peas, potato and roti, the dish had a zingy fresh green sauce which brought it all together.
Like heros we managed to squeeze in some desserts. Andrew went all out with a rum cake, and boyo was it rum soaked. It came in a puddle of rum caramel and some much needed ice cream. I think another slice and I would have had to take the car keys off him! I went for the
healthy lighter fresh pineapple which was sprinkled with sugar and BBQed. More of that rum caramel sauce (wish I could have taken a jar home!) and ice cream. I don’t think I have had fruit for dessert since I was a kid, but it was just enough sweetness to round off a cracking meal (although the brownies coming out of the kitchen did look pretty good too!).
Service was friendly and brisk (a little too brisk really, we had to ask to break before pudding to catch our breath) and I LOVED the fact that there were ten non-alcoholic options and not a single one was dull. The home made ginger beer was zingy and a really generous bottle, and the watermelon crush was the taste of sunshine.
The only thing I didn’t love was the music; just a touch too loud. But hey I am staring down the barrel of middle age so what do I know! It wasn’t just a good meal, it was a good night: the venue, the open kitchen, the food, the drinks and the service. As I am typing I have the menu open thinking about my next visit – goat burger or steamed red snapper? Brownie or citrus tart? Will they let me take a bag of those dumplings home?
So if you are looking for really well cooked food at a great price (our meal was around £50 for three courses and non alcoholic drinks for two) in a sunshine corner of Lancashire, then Turtle Bay Blackburn should be your next holiday destination!
*This meal was provided by the PR company.