Winter is all about comfort food; hunkering down on a chilly day with a big bowl full of deliciousness. To me comfort food doesn’t get any more comforting than soul food. I grew up in Tottenham which has a large Caribbean community so it brings back lots of memories. I’ve never really explored Caribbean restaurants in Leeds before so I was intrigued when I was invited to try out Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant which has just opened in The Light.
We visited in the lull between Christmas & New Year, I was surprised to see Turtle Bay was really busy on a Wednesday night. The bar was about 3 deep and nearly all of the tables were taken. We were seated towards the back, away from the packed bar area.
The menu has lots of choice; everything from more traditional soul food to common dishes with a Caribbean twist. For starters we shared Jamaican Fried Bait (£4.95), Beef Patty (£4.95) and Jerk Pit Ribs (£4.95). The whitebait had a nice spice coating and tasted good, however maybe weren’t as crispy as I’d like. The ribs were really delicious; the jerk marinade was so, so tasty and the meat just fell off the bones. I got it all in my hair and didn’t care – a good sign. The beef patty divided me and P. They’re my ultimate comfort food; stodgy deliciousness. This was a good one, not the best I’ve had though. The pastry is dense and filled with well spiced beef mince. P thought it was too stodgy though and was unimpressed.
For mains were ordered Jerk Chicken with Jerk Fries & Cheese (£9.95), Goat Curry with Rice n Peas & Dumplings (£9.65) along with a side of Plantain (£2.35). Now the jerk chicken wasn’t the prettiest however it was the best tasting. The chicken was still moist and the jerk was perfect. The coleslaw added a refreshing, crisp bite however sadly the fries weren’t great. They’d gone cold so the cheese was claggy and the fries weren’t too crispy.
The goat curry was tender however the flavour could have packed a bit more punch and it could have been more saucy, especially for P. The rice and peas were good however would have been better mixed in with some curry sauce. Dumplings are another of my favourite Caribbean foods; fried stodge in the best possible way and these were spot on.
For pudding we had the Banana & Toffee Cheesecake (£4.85) and Caymanas Rum Cake (£4.85). The cheesecake was really light and the banana flavour was nicely subtle. The base was also still fairly chunky so had a nice texture, a big hit with P. The Caymanas cake was my favourite though. A soft, airy vanilla sponge with a rum sauce that had a big boozy hit. It was a massive slice but it didn’t feel like an effort to eat even after a huge meal.
I’ve left drinks separate from the food as Turtle Bay seems to be just as much a restaurant as a bar. The menu is extensive and mostly revolves around rum (though there are some other options). Of course we sampled a (fair) few.
We had a Strawberry Daiquiri, Bahama Mama, Marley Mojito, Raspberry Reggae and a Rum Runner (all £6.95 each). The cocktails were the dangerous kind; taste so good you barely notice they’re very boozy until you try and stand up. This also happens to be my favourite kind. Turtle Bay do two 241 happy hours each evening (until 7pm and then again from 10pm) which explains the absolutely packed bar. And if cocktails aren’t your thing then there’s also a huge rum menu (around 30 types) and you can get a rum tasting board – 4 different types with a can of Ting. The only thing I would say is that we arrived during happy hour and it takes a while to gets served seeing as everyone’s getting cocktails.
I really enjoyed most of the food at Turtle Bay and definitely think it’s a good option if you fancy trying something a bit different however P wasn’t so sure, so it’s not to everyone’s taste and I’m sure it’s not the most authentic you can get in Leeds. The one thing we did agree on was the cocktails so definitely go give them a go, plus who can say no to a 241?
This meal was complimentary, views are my own though.