Once an icon of Newcastle city centre, the Co Op building is currently undergoing a makeover to turn it in to a hotel as well as dining venues. As a national chain, Turtle Bay brings a taste of the Caribbean to our fair city after a £800,000 investment.
Capturing the laid back soulful vibe of the Caribbean, the restaurant is jumping and welcoming. The bold eclectic décor and central bar gives way to a formal dining room that makes you feel like you are sitting in a beach café with the ocean next to you. With 2 for 1 happy hour drinks for the best part of the day, the bar area has been rammed every time I pass. The added stool seating around the counter makes it next to impossible to get served during theSaturday crush if people are sitting at the bar which was particularly frustrating as we only wanted a quick drink before our table was ready. It’s a good sign that the bar in a restaurant is jumping though, come for the drinks, stay for the food right? The proximity to the Gate complex will keep this place well supplied with punters.
Once we headed back to the quieter dining room (with it’s own dedicated bar!), it was a breath of fresh air to be away from the crush even though it’s only 20ft away! Perusing the menu with a cocktail in hand, we wanted something hot hot hot. The starters, or Cutters as they are called, are inspired by street food and beach shacks which make them great for sharing over a cocktail or 2, or 4.
We started with the Hot Hot Pepper Roti (£5.10). Fine pastry is stuffed with peppers, cheese, carrots, potatoes and onions. It’s almost a Caribbean version of a pasty, if you will. This packed a very healthy punch and left a tingle on the tongue. It’s very light so you’ll have room for your main and the heat of the filling is cooled down by a herb mayo. Of course I may have added a splash of Turtle Bay’s very own imported hot sauce to my plate for an extra kick!
The Jerk Chicken Wings (£5.10) were well spiced and meaty – these must have been some big chickens! They were flavourful and spicy but not hot, a perfect introduction to jerk flavouring and Caribbean cuisine if you are frightened to dip your toe in. The spiced orange chutney added a sour note and cut through the spices.
We also split a side of the cheese and jerk coated sweet pepper fries which were incredibly moreish – and I don’t even like sweet potatoes!
Husband absolutely loves Curry Goat (£9.70) and after eating his weight in the dish while working in Manchester, he knows what he likes. His verdict is good even though it didn’t look very startling in the dish. Very similar to the ‘authentic’ dishes he has tried in the past and although it could have been hotter, the ginger warmed his tongue up! The dish was generous and the goat meat was plentiful and tender thanks to the low and slow cooking. Served with a traditional dumpling and rice & peas, this was a great dish to get stuck in to.
I thought I’d try something I’d not normally go for so I went for a mild dish – Trinidad Curry Chicken (£9.70) was packed with thick creamy coconut milk, garlic and the very faintest hint of chilli. It’s a great dish if you like the spice of Caribbean cooking without the heat of chilli. Again served with the ubiquitous rice & peas and topped with fried plantain, mango and coconut, this was a very filling and rich dish that showcases the essence of the cuisine.
Both pleasantly full, we had decided to skip a dessert until I saw they have BBQ Pineapple (£4.85). My absolute favourite dessert. The thick rings of pineapple were dusted with cinnamon and sugar before being caramelised and doused in caramel sauce. It was a sloppy dessert with the sauce and ice cream but the pineapple was delicious. The perfect ending to our visit!
Thanks to our early dinner reservation, we were able to enjoy a few more 2 for 1 cocktails before happy hour came to an end at 7pm!
If you are not a fan of spice and heat – Turtle Bay isn’t the place for you unfortunately but if you are game, then add lashings of the hot sauce! If things get a little too hot to handle, the Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie is to die for.
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