Phone number: 023 8063 9568
Turtle Bay in Southampton was always a regular haunt for me during my student years in the city; the 2 for 1 cocktails offer that runs throughout most of the day was always too tempting to resist. However, somehow I have always avoided eating there, not out of personal choice, but because when you’re a student you tend to prioritise spending your student loan on alcoholic beverages over food.
James and I were recently invited down to the Southampton-based, Caribbean cuisine restaurant to sample the menu and I really couldn’t contain my excitement. When I worked a part-time job on the high street, my walk to work used to take me past Turtle Bay most days and the mouthwatering spicy smells of the food from the kitchen used to drift out teasingly onto the street. You could stand outside for hours and revel in that sweet, sweet aroma!
We booked our table for 5pm on a Saturday, which although is early, I knew we would beat the Saturday night rush for the cocktail bar. This wouldn't have mattered too much as the dining area is kept separate from the bar to ensure you can eat in peace. Although, it does get loud when it's busy (but that's part of the lively charm of Turtle Bay), you have enough space away from the crowd in the dining area without feeling too far away from the buzz of the bar. The cocktail mixologists stand behind a square bar in the centre of the restaurant, frantically brewing, blending, stirring and mixing an assortment of rum-based cocktails fitting with the Caribbean cuisine that the restaurant offers. If you haven't got time to stop for food at Turtle Bay, make sure you stop for one of their incredible cocktails, or two; they offer 2 for 1 on cocktails between opening - 7pm and 10pm - close every single day of the week! The Bahama Mama is my personal favourite and recommendation.
For our main course, we both opted for dishes from the jerk pit BBQ menu. I couldn't resist the sound of the double dipped jerk marinated beef steak topped with a green seasoning and sweet onion chutney with a side of sweet potato fries and slaw. I can never, ever resist the option of a steak when it's on the menu. However, James was feeling pretty courageous and decided upon an entire jerk chicken to himself with jerk fries.
Unfortunately I wasn't too keen on the steak itself, but the green spicy seasoning mixed with the jerk marinade was absolutely delicious. I asked for my steak medium-rare, but it was just a little pinker than I expected and a little tough to chew through. The sweet potato fries at Turtle Bay are easily the best sweet potato fries out there; they're so deliciously sweet and crispy I could eat a whole bowl within seconds and still have room for more!
James' jerk chicken on the other hand was absolutely divine and packed a punch with every single bite. Impressively, he almost managed to eat the entire thing by himself (I told you we eat A LOT). It was cooked to perfection as it was tender and juicy with the jerk flavouring soaking through the entire chicken.
As with any great meal, we finished up with dessert even though we were stuffed to the brim by this point. James opted for the BBQ pineapple with rum caramel sauce, coconut ice-cream and shavings whilst I only had eyes for the banana and toffee cheesecake. Both of them were the perfect finish to our fiery Caribbean feast and left a sweet taste on our tongues. Once again, I could have eaten an entire banana and toffee cheesecake from Turtle Bay. Gosh, it's got me craving one just thinking about it right now!
Turtle Bay has the chilled out vibe for both dinner and drinks; you wouldn't feel an inch out of place if you turned up in a t-shirt, jeans and trainers for a catch up with your pals. I've been going to this particular restaurant since my university days and the staff there are some of the loveliest and friendliest you'll find in any restaurant, even when they have customers spilling out of the door. If you're after a quieter dining experience, I'd recommend going during the weekend or the afternoon, as weekends can draw in the pre-party crowds, because quite frankly, it's the best place in the city for a pre-party!