by Jessica Jefferys
EAT: TURTLE BAY, EALING
We very rarely go out for a meal on a Tuesday night, and my husband and I were expecting to find Ealing’s newest restaurant, Turtle Bay, half full. But instead we found a lively, bustling restaurant with a very warm welcome. Tuesday is obviously the new Friday for this Caribbean hotspot.
We were out for my husband’s birthday and we quickly realised it was a great place to celebrate, with over 20 original cocktails on the menu (plus a good range of mocktails for the designated drivers). We were shown to our table and handed over to friendly waiters—in fact, everyone was truly lovely and knowledgeable—a testament to the compulsory week’s training prior to the opening last month, as our Aussie waitress explained.
She also told us that it wasn’t unusual for the restaurant to be so busy and that booking is always advisable—even that evening they had to turn away a number of prospective diners. Luckily there’s also a large bar area surrounded with seating for people to console themselves (especially from 12 to 7pm and after 10pm, when all cocktails are two for one).
Turtle Bay is a chain (though this is their first London restaurant), but it couldn’t be further from the image of moulded seating and floppy burgers with which the word is often associated. Instead they’ve paid close attention to detail in both food and decor: from the authentic bar and grill area to the West Indies-inspired signage and right down to the enamel teapot our mint tea came in at the end of the meal. It really did capture the ambience of our holiday in Antigua a few years ago.
For drinks (£6.85 for cocktails; £3.55 for the soft stuff), we settled on a Marley Mojito with Appleton rum and mint, ginger and watermelon for him and a fruit punch for me. I thought it was going to be a Turtle Bay special but mine actually came ready-made in a bottle; I preferred my second drink, which was a fiery homemade ginger beer with cloves and fresh lime.
Our starters (each £4.95) were sweetcorn fritters with a hot sauce—delicious, homemade and pretty spicy!—and slow-roast pulled jerk pork, which came with fresh butternut squash, mango, orange and coconut shavings. Like all our dishes they were jam-packed with fresh Caribbean flavours.
Our mains were just as tasty: a succulent curry squash with rice and beans for me (£9.65) and a half jerk chicken from the Jerk Pit BBQ for him (£9.95). Again my curry was pretty hot, and my only criticism is that it would have been nice to have a bit more flatbread to balance it out. My husband’s jerk chicken was delicious with wonderful flavours. No authentic Caribbean restaurant would be complete without a scorching barbeque and we were invited up to the open-plan kitchen to see theirs, which was enormous and laden with food.
Turtle Bay certainly don’t scrimp on portions—we were almost defeated by the time we got to the puddings (£4.85 each) but still managed to share some banana fritters with rum caramel (at my insistence). And I’m glad we did. And then the pot of mint tea in the colourful enamel teapot. We were also offered the rum tasting board (four rums plus a mixer) but sadly had to decline.
As well as the great range of starters (cutters), one pots and BBQ specials, they also have a ‘lunch ‘n’ lighter’ range with smaller meals ranging from grills and curries to buns, flatbreads and salads. Perfect for those lunching or with eyes and bellies more aligned than ours!
I asked about kids’ food and they recommended some variations on chicken and rice dishes. It’s definitely the kind of place my little girl would love and I imagine they’d also make children of all ages feel right at home.
It’s a fun, friendly and tasty night out. I’d go back for the food—leaving as much room as possible beforehand—the atmosphere, and to sample a delicious, fiery cocktail or two. And I’d definitely not leave getting a table to chance.
For more information, see Turtle Bay’s website.
About the author:
Jessica is a new-ish mum living in and loving west London. She’s likely to be seen drinking coffee in Chiswick or on the Askew Road and most places in between. She lives with her husband and, as of March 2012, little girl ‘Scrip’ (not her real name, they’re not that cruel). Find her on newmumblings.com or @newmumblings or instagram: newmumblings