I have to admit to being slightly surprised when the Caribbean chain Turtle Bay invited my family and me to review their new Bristol restaurant, which has recently opened on Cheltenham Road. Having been to the launch event a few weeks back, I know it’s got a strong reputation for being party central and when I asked friends at work about it, all everyone talked about were the great cocktails.
But since I was told that Turtle Bay is also very popular with families and since we love eating out with the kids, especially when there’s spicy food and good tunes on offer, well… we just had to give it a go.
And I have to say we had a great night out. We went on a Thursday evening, quite early – around 5:30pm, but the place was already starting to fill up, although we were the only table there with children.
Jason and I made the most of the two-for-one cocktails, which are available until 7pm and from 10pm to 1.30am every day. We both went for rum cocktails – well, it’d be rude not to – steadily working our way through a couple of Mai Tais followed by a brace of Tingwrays (126 proof Wray & Nephew with Ting grapefruit crush and fresh lime), which were wickedly refreshing.
On the soft drink front, Jessie enjoyed a Passion Fruit Cooler (“really tangy and really nice”, while Mia (who has the sweetest tooth I know) found the perfect drink for her; a Berry Smoothy made with fresh raspberries, condensed milk and cream.
I’ve discovered it’s pretty darn difficult to photograph West Indian food and make it look tempting; there’s just so much brown and beige I’m afraid! But take my word for it, the food was right up our street – comforting, satisfying and properly spicy. It’s not high-class dining by any stretch of the imagination and probably a far reach for being remotely authentic, but it’s good tasty grub – the kind of food you need to roll up your sleeves and expect to get messy with – and just perfect fodder for soaking up rum cocktails.
To start we tried the Hot Hot Pepper Roti (great kick although the vegetables were somewhat mushy), Jerk Chicken Wings (lip-tinglingly good) and Sweet Corn Fritters (crispy outside, squishy inside and best covered in pepper sauce). Then moving onto the main event, we went for Turtle Bay’s Goat Curry (hearty and warming), Jamaican Browned Chicken (simple comfort food) and the Grilled King Prawn Salad, which Jessie says was just spicy enough and the mango strips were delicious.
Our eight-year-old Mia chose from the Little Turtles’ menu…
It’s not the most inspired children’s menu I’ve ever seen and, like most restaurants these days, it comes with crayons so your little ones can occupy themselves while the parents engross themselves in boring conversation. But still it was perfect for Mia, who isn’t the most adventurous of eaters, and she was definitely happy with her choice of cheese burger and fries, although I tried to persuade her to try the rice ‘n’ peas…
We did rather overdo it by finishing off with some puddings, but hey – in for a penny, in for a pound! I live with a family of chocaholics: my youngest opted for a hot chocolate (that girl could honestly survive on hot chocolate I’m sure), and Jason and Jessie both went for the Spiced Chocolate Pot, which is divinely rich and served with coconut shavings and coconut ice cream. They really could have shared a helping as one each was verging on obscene! The same could really be said of my dessert too, the Caymanas Rum Cake. Sweet and stodgy, it’s an unfussy, old-fashioned, rib-sticker of a pudding like your grandma might make, and definitely big enough to share.
So, would I rate Turtle Bay as a family-friendly restaurant? Surprisingly, I think I would. Come out with the kids in the daytime or early evening before it gets too packed and rowdy, (a mini fight broke out the evening we were there but it got sorted out very quickly) and I think it’s a pretty decent place to feed the family.
The waiting staff are lovely and very attentive, the music’s loud so it really doesn’t matter if the children are too, and you can all get sticky-fingered and greasy-chinned and no-one’s gonna care one jot. OK, so the food’s not going to blow your mind (unlike some of the pepper sauces) and I’m not normally one to get particularly excited about chain restaurants, but if you’re looking for somewhere that’s fun and relaxed and pretty good value, then I’d thoroughly recommend you and your little ones give Turtle Bay a try.
Turtle Bay: 223 Cheltenham Road, Bristol BS6 5QP
Open 11:30am-11:30pm Sundays to Wednesdays; to 12:30pm Thursdays; to 1:30am Fridays and Saturdays
Disclosure: I was invited to review Turtle Bay and my family and I did not pay for our meals. No money exchanged hands and as always all opinions expressed are my own and those of my family.