Yesterday saw the official opening of Newcastle’s newest restaurant, Turtle Bay. Having attended the Press Preview last week I was keen to return and sample the Caribbean menu fully, so when I heard the proceeds from its first day of trading would be donated to local charity The Sunshine Fund I ensured I booked a table for the Canny Food family immediately. The 150 cover Newcastle restaurant is located in the historic Co-operative Building on Newgate Street, right in the heart of the city, and is the chain’s first restaurant in the North East.
During the sneaky peek I was bowled over by the enthusiasm of the staff towards their food and drink. I naturally asked what vegetarian and vegan options would feature, and was reassured that because of the Caribbean influence there were many items that Mr. Canny would be able to enjoy. Inspired by the laid back culture that brought us Bob Marley (who was vegan, coincidentally!), the cocktail menu at Turtle Bay is extensive and reasonably priced, with a 241 Happy Hour running at selected times every day. The rum punch flowed on the night, but I was on the ‘softs’ for obvious reasons. These were very good regardless of the lack of alcohol, especially the Watermelon Crush (think grown-up Slush Puppy) and Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothy. In fact, I feel you’d be able to enjoy their non-alcoholic drinks just as much as their cocktails when dining here as they act as a palate refresher against all the spices.
During the course of the evening I had a chance to sample the Rastafari Run Down, their very own vegan curry. I knew Mr. Canny would love this, and was excited to take him along on the opening day. The menu includes ‘Cutters’ (inspired by the Beach Shacks and Street Hawkers of the Caribbean Islands – perfect for sharing over cocktails); the Jerk BBQ Pit (which is as fiery as it sounds); ‘One Pots’ (rich, slowly simmered and uniquely Caribbean), of which the Run Down is part of. Signature dishes include their famous Jerk Chicken, Jerk Prawns, Turtle Bay Patties, Trini Doubles and Curry Goat. We were presented with sharing platters piled with all manner of lovely nibbles to the point that we couldn’t manage dessert when it arrived! I worried about how Canny Jnr would fare, given that much of the food is authentically spiced. I certainly felt the burn on occasion, but I am a self-confessed spice wuss. Watching others liberally douse their food in the spicy sauces on the table I was both in awe and horrified!
On our family visit I took control on the ordering front and asked the men to trust my judgement. I opted for us to share 4 starters, and chose the Run Down with 3 different sides. If you are veggie or vegan it is a bit of a struggle when it comes to the main course because the focus of the restaurant is clearly on their meaty jerk offerings. I’m reliably informed (by another food blogger) the Curry Goat is melt in the mouth, and their Chicken appeared to be succulent when served up during the Press Preview.
The Garlic and Herb Flatbread was right up Jnr’s street, although it could have used a little more cooking to firm it up. The chilli was definitely present even on this fairly innocuous starter. The Pepper Roti with a foreboding mention of Scotch Bonnet was one of the milder starter options I chose, oddly enough. I think the cheese and Mayo added a cooling element to it.
The Sweetcorn Fritters with ‘fiery’ sauce were just as punchy as I remembered, and the Trini Doubles were fragrant and lightly spiced. All starters are £4.95. They agreed I had ordered well and even suggested we could have eaten a few more. The clear plates were a testament to our enjoyment of the food.
The curry arrived in a large pot, with fried dumplings served on the side. Butter beans, corn cob, carrots, sweet potatoes and herbs had been cooked in coconut milk and topped with coconut shavings. There was a mild kick to the whole affair, but the Watermelon Crush was less necessary by this stage of the meal. Mr. Canny said there was nothing to dislike about the main, especially with the serving of rice and beans alongside. Jnr liked the Cheesy Jerk Fries so much he polished them off on his own!
I’m not exactly the greatest food blogger when it comes to photography, so I’ve purposefully omitted the only photo I took of what is the best cheesecake both Jnr and I have eaten in Newcastle City Centre for fear it would deter you from ordering. This Banana and Toffee pud -although I didn’t detect any banana in the mix- was layered with a sauce similar to Dulce de Leche. After the spice of our previous courses this was a delightful end to the meal, and Jnr begged me for a take away portion!
The evening was ‘Pay as You Feel’ apart from the beverages, which were charged at full price. The premise was that Turtle Bay would match diners contributions and donate the proceeds to the Sunshine Fund. Our bill came to just under £57, which we felt was more than reasonable. The staff I met on both nights were friendly, warm, and welcoming, and the interior has lots of Instagram worthy features such as the neon signs and murals on the walls. The reggae music is loud and may not be to everyone’s tastes, as an FYI. I wouldn’t recommend visiting for a romantic meal, for example, but it’s a great place for cocktails and catching up with friends. Judging by the number of people being turned away I think Turtle Bay will be a big hit with the Geordies fancying something a little different from the burger/BBQ joints we’ve had of late.
Thanks for reading,