With the weather forbidding and the purse-strings of the average punter tightened after Christmas excess, January isn’t a month to savour for Leeds restaurateurs.
Oliver has walked past a few of late looking somewhat forlorn amid a sea of empty tables. It’s all the more striking then, that a month after opening, the Turtle Bay Caribbean restaurant and bar in The Light seems to be doing a roaring trade.
Our first effort to go along, at 2.30pm on a Saturday, is thwarted by the numbers already inside, so we return on a Friday night.
Once inside, it’s clear this latest link in the chain of Turtle Bay outlets, whose founder Aj Jaya-Wickrema is also behind the Las Iguanas brand, is not short of ambition and funding.
There’s an eating area with 150 covers, centred on a beach shack-style bar serving drinks and with the main kitchen off to one side. On the walls, murals and decorations are every bit as colourful and eye-catching as you would expect.
One or two logistical issues still need ironing out. We arrive five minutes early for the table and are told to wait at the shack bar, only to realise the staff have no way of identifying us to show us to our table.
Luckily, the food is of a very high standard. I order jerk chicken, with skin radiating fruity heat and tender meat underneath, alongside a tangy orange chutney and roughly-hewn coleslaw. Offered the choice of sides from rice ‘n’ peas, sweet potato mash or sweet potato fries, I opt for the latter, served skinny and crispy in a cup.
My partner’s goat curry from the slowly-simmered one pot menu, was fruity and spicy with an impressive depth of flavour. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth and spicy enough for our palettes, served with dumplings on the side.
Drinks-wise, having missed the two-for-one happy hour and the chance to get a bargain on the extensive cocktail menu, I opt for a hoppy Jamaican Pale Ale (brewed in Bristol).
Our mains arrive in double-quick time, so it’s all the more surprising that 25 minutes after ordering a banana and toffee cheesecake for dessert it shows no signs of arriving.
Our entreaties to a passing waitress elicit little more than a shrug, so after ten minutes we ask again and a second, more enthusiastic waitress brings it over with apologies.
The cheesecake itself, which we get for free, is just about good enough to overcome our annoyance. A crunchy base is topped with creamy, flavoursome topping and a moreish rum caramel source.
Our bill comes to £27.20, though the dessert would have cost a further £4.85. Decent value for good food in a vibrant atmosphere, but the frustrating service delays cost it that fourth star in Oliver’s review.
Address: Turtle Bay, 14 The Light, Albion St, Leeds
Phone: 0113 242 6000