Turtle Bay – Exeter Press Preview

In Exeter, it’s rare to come across a range of worldly cuisines – especially Caribbean! That’s where Turtle Bay has come in. As a big fan of Bajan food since visiting Barbados a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to spend an evening at Turtle Bay’s latest restaurant, right in the middle of Exeter Guildhall. The invite said to expect reggae, jerk and a LOT of rum. In a sentence, we most certainly weren’t disappointed.

Thinking it best not to drive, and taking my best friend Rach along for the experience, we were immediately whisked into the bright and jazzy new location with rum punches pressed into our palms by enthusiastic and chatty staff. Not a bad start to the evening, and definitely insight into what was to come. We were treated to crisp sweet potato fries (£2.40) to whet our appetites as we gathered around the island hut style bar, perching on high stools.

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Now I’ve always enjoyed rum, but never quite like this. Our masterclass guide was unbelievable. His passion for rum was incredible and we all sat in awe of his knowledge and enthusiasm for the stuff, sampling our way through various bottles of some of the most delicious neat alcohols I’ve ever tasted. The Old J Spiced was especially good – really vanillary and sweet. Plus I really like the fact that they charge a flat rate across all their rums – so you can order anything you like the look of!

Feeling pretty tipsy by this point (and therefore apologies for the marginally blurry photos), we were ushered over to the open street style kitchen to sample some of Turtle Bay’s infamous food.

To start, we shared Beach Food Platters (£12.95) filled with spicy jerk chicken wings, sweetcorn fritters, pepper roti and garlic ‘n’ herb flatbreads. I particularly loved the sweetcorn fritters which were the perfect balance of soft and crunchy and had a little kick of spice from scotch bonnet hot sauce. I loved the look of the pepper rotis but dived in not realising quite how spicy they would be – listen to the menu when it says “hot hot” as these certainly were! Looking at everything else on offer, next time I visit I will also try the chilli squid because, umm HEY calamari served with mango ‘mole or maybe the pulled pork…options options!

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With free reign on the Turtle Bay cocktail menu, I’ll admit, we went a bit mad.

Can you blame a girl for looking through a menu where EVERYTHING appeals?! I started with a “One Love” which might possibly be the tastiest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. I mean it. Basically a martini mash up of passionfruit, rum and coconut and it was divine! After starters, with hot and spicy mouths, we then moved onto Koko Coladas to cool off. These were creamy, delicious and sweet, everything you could ask for when you’re feeling the heat. Like a lot of things on their menu, all cocktails are one price – £6.95 AND before 7pm and after 10pm, you can get 2-4-1 which I think is an absolute billy bargain!

The mains were soon brought out and I had a rare food epiphany.

Not even joking,

I’ve never been much of a fan of meat on the bone, so I wasn’t sure what jerk chicken (1/2 – £10.10 / whole – £17.50) would be like. However, I am SO pleased by that point that I just went with it, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since. I’ve NEVER had chicken so tasty, and I eat a lot of chicken. Seriously, when you visit, get some. Get a chicken to share for the table. I don’t care if you can’t eat for a week afterwards because you’re so full, but everybody has to try this chicken!

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After such a rave review, it’s hard for the rice ‘n’ peas, dumplings and the curry goat to match up, but I can assure you they were also wonderful! For just £9.70 you got them all in too, which is an amazing price for something so filling, rare to come across and flavoursome!

The mains on the Turtle Bay menu are split into two main sections – “One Pots” and “Jerk Pit BBQ”. The One Pots are priced at £9.70 (I KNOW!!) and all look amazing. Then the jerk pit BBQ options come with various choices for sides and are priced individually, but you can get anything from steak to ribs, lamb and red snapper. Averaging at around £12 for anything from the BBQ, it’s such a decent price for some seriously tasty authentic Caribbean food.

I will slide in the fact here that in between exclamations of delight at the food, Rach and I we also managed to polish off sharing a fruity “Raspberry Reggae” cocktail, citrussy “Mash Up” and “Vanilla & Passionfruit Mojito”. I can assure you I was still the sort of drunk where I can remember everything, but may have been excessively chatty to the lovely PR ladies who sat next to us!

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For pudding, they’d laid out samples of a few different options and though stuffed, I still just about squeezed in a mouthful of lemon and lime tart, dark chocolate brownie, BBQ pineapple and my favourite, the banana and toffee cheesecake! Oh, and maybe just one last sneaky shared cocktail – the “Tease Me” which was a luxurious blend of banana, coconut, tia maria, rum and banana liquor, all whizzed up into an alcoholic smoothie of sorts. They also brought out a rum tasting board with 4 different rums to try and assorted accompaniments. Oh my…!

As you can probably tell, I LOVED Turtle Bay. I loved the bright and quirky decor, the open kitchen, the incredible choice of staff. I was blown away by the choice of rums, the delicious cocktails. But most of all I loved the food. It felt like the perfect blend of Caribbean ethnicities the with influence of bold, spicy flavours.

Whilst my meal was complimentary for the purpose of a review, how do you know I actually believe what I’ve said?

Before we’d even left we booked two tables for separate evenings after the grand opening TOMORROW (23 August 2016), and have since booked another!

That’s just how much I loved it. 

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To see for yourself what Turtle Bay is all about, visit their website here, or to book a table in their Exeter branch, phone 01392 690868


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