IT’S DECEMBER. It’s raining. It’s freezing cold.
But that hasn’t stopped plenty of punters (including myself) from piling into a brand new bar in Leeds.
Escaping from the harsh weather outside, my companion and I clamour into Turtle Bay on Albion Street.
The new Caribbean-themed restaurant and bar at The Light is a far cry from its former life as an O’Neill clothes store.
The unit has had a complete makeover, with the company spending a cool £1m on its refurbishment.
There is now a central rum shack bar and a surrounding dining area, and its lively decor and vibe makes you feel like you really could be in the Caribbean. As we walk through, we notice it is mainly full of couples enjoying a meal.
We take a seat at a booth by the window in the corner, soak up the great reggae music and peruse the menu.
It happens to be happy hour, with a two-for-one cocktail deal on. The menu is impressive, with around 25 concoctions including martinis, punch, daiquiris and mojitos, all with a Caribbean twist.
There is also a decent wine list, and beers include Red Stripe, Guinness West Indie Porter and Jamaican Pale Ale.
There’s even a separate rum menu, with 30 types of rum from across the West Indies.
They are all priced at £3.95 for a 25ml shot and there’s also a rum tasting board, with four rums and a can of Ting for £18.
I opt for the passion rum punch, with dark rum, Passoa, fresh passion fruit, orange juice and lemon at £6.95 (for two).
My companion goes for an alcohol-free ‘Caribbean soft’.
She chooses a home-made ginger beer with spiced pepper, cloves and fresh lime, and a home-made limeade with limes, sugar and club soda.
I approach the rum shack bar to place my order and it is already full, with four bar staff working as fast as possible to get the complicated cocktail orders out.
Many people seem to have come from the arena, and then a large student crowd follows, bringing a slightly different feel to the night for the loved-up couples who were, until then, enjoying their meal.
It takes a while to place the order and longer still to make them, with the friendly bartender regularly referring to his checklist of ingredients.
It’s understandable, as the bar only opened this week, and the bartenders all keep their cool and charm the waiting customers. The drinks are worth the wait, with the home-made soft drinks served in their own glass bottles.
It’s still early days for Turtle Bay but once the small teething problems are ironed out, it will work well.
If you want a more chilled-out vibe, it may be wise to visit earlier in the evening, as once it’s happy hour, the party really gets started!