After growing tired of the usual Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants I was pleasantly surprised to hear about a new Caribbean restaurant opening by the Guild Hall. I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon and following all the other keen restaurateurs, each on a quest to experience this new cuisine.
As you approach Turtle Bay it is almost unavoidable to be pleasantly surprised by the outside. Their location seems to be one of the few exceptions to the bleak backdrop of Southampton. In the centre of a shiny marble courtyard sits a sky high glass building, all brand new and all exceedingly modern. Admittedly Turtle Bay only fills one corner of the ground floor, but it is an impressive first impression all the same.
Once inside, I was told that I had just missed the lunchtime rush, but because of the chaotic lunch shift I would still have to wait 45 minutes for food. This was only half the battle, as they couldn’t actually find us a table to sit at that wasn’t piled high with plates. After ordering drinks at the bar we were seated reasonably quickly. This was a pleasant surprise, but did make me think that perhaps it was unnecessary to welcome us with a list of negatives, when in all likelihood we wouldn’t have noticed the wait if they hadn’t articulated it to us so freely.
Once seated, I was able to really take in the atmosphere of the restaurant. True to their word the owners have created a restaurant that “captures the Caribbean island vibe”. I was sat by a window, but had I not been able to see Southampton outside, I could have been in Jamaica. The music was authentic. The walls were brightly painted with scenes of the Caribbean. The seating worked perfectly with the island theme. It all seemed to combine to recreate the real location.
The staff seemed to completely juxtapose the atmosphere of the restaurant. They were fairly cold and at times seemed to be frustrated that they had to serve people. Luckily the food in Turtle Bay completely compensates for the unenthusiastic staff. Even the most basic dishes on the menu turned out to be full of flavour.
To start off we had sweetcorn fritters and jerk pit king prawns. The fritters were simple but the accompanying dip added a spicy depth to the fritters that made the combination really exciting. The king prawns certainly didn’t let the starters down; they were spicy, succulent and possibly the biggest prawns that I have ever seen. A word of warning- just be prepared to get your hands dirty, as they come in their shells and a very messy sauce. They’re completely worth the effort though.
Although the starters were fantastic, they were only a fraction of the flavour that was to come with our main courses. We had marinated pork steak and a sweet potato and chicken curry. The curry was slightly spicy, but has to go down as one of the best curries that I have ever tasted. Each mouthful had such a fresh, new flavour that definitely rivals the nice, but fairly regular tastes of Indian or Chinese curries. The pork steak remained succulent throughout, with a slightly spicy, sticky and mouth-watering flavour. It would not be exaggerating to say that the memory of this food alone makes me hungry. Even the accompaniments were outstanding, the pork came with perfectly crispy sweet potato chips and the curry came with rice and peas that could have been a satisfying meal by themselves. We were far too full to manage desserts, but that’s always something that I can save for a different day.
The restaurant is suitable for people of all ranges, and the prices are really reasonable. The taste of the food definitely outweighs any cost issues.
The restaurant claims to:
“capture the Caribbean island vibe by serving up exceptional, authentic dishes in an environment inspired by the love of laid-back living.”
I have to commend them for managing to achieve exactly this. As you can tell I highly rate the food at Turtle Bay and will definitely be revisiting frequently. The restaurant brings a new flavour to Southampton, that I would encourage anyone to experience.
If you want to view a menu or read more about the restaurant then visit: http://www.turtlebay.co.uk/southampton-restaurant/