I hear tell that if you venture into Turtle Bay off The Headrow of a Friday eve, it’s standing room only at the bar and the atmosphere dial is set to ‘party mode’.
When I visit on a Thursday afternoon it’s a little bit quieter than that but even so, I can feel the vibe, which comes through in everything from the decor and the laid-back yet confident service to the food and drink. Vibrant colours are everywhere, reflecting its Caribbean roots. In fact, the whole restaurant is one big splash of colour on a stretch of The Headrow which is - or was - in danger of becoming a little bit too formal, what with the laudable formality of Brown’s just a few doors down and PC World pretty much bang opposite.
The food and drink in particular is something to shout about here. Think wedges of pineapple, zingy salads and jerk chicken, refreshing beers and two-for-one cocktails, every day until 7pm and then again from 10pm until closing time.
I kick off, in true Caribbean fashion, with a drink: a pint of Red Stripe (4.7 per cent), described as the Jamaicans’ beer of choice on the menu (£4.05), it’s light and refreshing.
For food, I decide on the Jerk Chicken Wings, a little expensive at £5.10 but certainly hitting the spot in terms of flavour, cooked with their classic glaze, which is just challenging enough to make me glad I bought the pint. It comes with a slab of orange chutney, which is just sweet enough to offset some of the hotness of the dish.My only complaint being, it was too small for the money.
To go with it, I ordered the Spinach and Melon salad (£7.50), with a king prawn topping (an extra £3). This comprised spinach, watermelon, mixed greens, rocket, spiced pineapple chunks, beetroot shavings crispy gem, crispy chickpeas with a citrus lime dressing, plus the prawns, of course.
They have a number of options when it comes to their ‘beach salads’, all involving adding extra ingredients and I’ve nothing bad to say about the salad itself. It was one of the freshest I’ve tasted in a long time and no-one could argue it came out of a bag or that it had ever even heard the word ‘bland’. Again, though, my only gripe here is with the price. With the prawns on top (I think I got three and they were nice enough), that dish came to over £10, which is steep.
Service was super slick, waiting staff being attentive and polite - one brought me a finger bowl over having clocked I had the prawns.
Turtle Bay has been open here about 18 months, give or take, if you’ve not discovered it yet, sail on over.
Turtle Bay, The Lilght, The Headrow, LS1 8TL