Last Thursday evening we were invited along to try out Newcastle’s newest restaurant (probably not even correct at time of publishing), Turtle Bay. The Caribbean venue has set up shop in part of the old Co-op on Newgate Street, just one up from The Gate. I’m not sure if this location will work well for this concept – Turtle Bay is heavily reminiscent of Las Iguanas, which was actually co-founded by the same person (so that makes sense). The Latin American chain seems to do a roaring trade on Grey Street, only time will tell if Turtle Bay can replicate this in a different part of town.
The staff at Turtle Bay were contagiously happy. On entry, we were served a cocktail from their vast menu, the Reggae Rum Punch. I wasn’t so keen as it was made with strawberry juice, plus it contained Wray & Nephew – not really something I see as a sociable weekday drink. We enjoyed it nonetheless and began exploring the interior. The decor is a lot more loud and garish than Las Iguanas, it was more comparable to ZaZa Bazaar with neon lights, flags hanging from the ceiling, giant pretend boom boxes on the wall etc. It seems like they’ve put a lot of effort into the refurb and I do think it will suit the target audience in that part of town.
The cocktail menu was mainly rum-focused, which I was more than happy with as I do love a good rum cocktail and I don’t feel like there are many places in town that do the spirit justice. I also tried the Passion Rum Punch, which was made with dark rum & Passoa, fresh passion fruit, orange juice & lemon – I’ll definitely be back, even if just to have this cocktail again! We were also served a Bahama Mama, made with Koko Kanu & banana liqueur with pineapple & grenadine – this one was probably slightly on the sweet side for me but still a nice change to what I usually order.
Food-wise, there was very little I could eat due to my gluten intolerance. We were served huge tasting platters for the starter, all of which was either deep fried or wrapped in bread, but I was informed I could have curries that were served for mains. We then had the Rastafarian Run Down, a vegetarian curry made with coconut milk. I’m all for coconut in curries but this was a bit too coconutty for me, it’s how I imagine a curry would taste if made with my favourite Body Shop body butter. But that’s just my personal taste, and the dish seemed to go down a treat on the table. We also had Our Curry Goat, which was absolutely delicious and spicy – never thought I’d like goat but this was cooked to perfection.
The lovely lass who was running the event talked me through the dishes and what contained gluten, unfortunately for me, pretty much everything did but she brought out some plain chips for me with cheese on top (tasted like my uni days). I was pretty chuffed with this at the time but looking back I do have a sneaking suspicion that they were fried in the same oil as the sweet potato fries and other flour-coated dishes they served, because I definitely wasn’t feeling my best come Friday. This is one major sticking point I am finding with pubs and restaurants claiming to serving gluten free – frying potatoes in the same oil as floured products is not acceptable and should be clearly stated on the menu. Anyway, it was partially my own fault for not asking (I usually do, but I was desperate for carbs by this point!). Since there was a bunch of other food I couldn’t eat, I thought I’d ask Craig to give a quick rundown of what he thought:
As far as taster menus go, this was a cut above the usual ham sarnies and hot dogs on cocktail sticks served at a social club. The first course consisted of some fried sweetcorn balls that were a good mix of crispy and tender, some quesadilla-style duck wraps and chicken wings. All had nice tangy flavours that were just shy of hot. Like Ellen mentioned, we were being liberally plied with rum cocktails, which quickly begun to hamper my ability to properly taste the food.
Mains were outstanding. I loved the goat curry, which was fairly hot for a guy who generally only eats a Jalfrezi – and that’s after psyching himself up. The other main, a full chicken, was left alone by other attendees so I did my duty and cleaned up. Wow. It was delicious, crispy skin marinated in homemade jerk sauce. I’m a simple man with simple tastes, and good chicken is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
The only thing I didn’t really understand was the addition of sandwich plates full of little toasties. They seemed like an odd inclusion on such a fun and unusual menu. I’d imagine they’d be delicious if you like cheese – but I’m not a big fan. The salmon inside them was nice though. The sweet potato fries I had were fine, but topped with cheese so again I can’t comment too much.
All in all, a lovely set of flavours on some nicely cooked food. I almost felt bad for Ellen having to sit and watch me eat it all…
All in all, I couldn’t really fault the service and the atmosphere was great. I’d definitely return to take advantage of their Happy Hour cocktail offer – 241 before 7pm and after 10pm. But I probably won’t be back for food in a hurry, simply because the gluten free options were so limited. Las Iguanas boasts a varied gluten free menu and I’ve never had problems with cross-contamination there, let’s hope Turtle Bay takes note so I can take a bite of that Caribbean goodness!