I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Jamaica a few times, though sadly not in more recent years, and I’m a huge fan of the island, its charming people, the laid back culture and its delicious food. So I was delighted to receive an invitation to the VIP Preview Night of Colchester’s newest dining experience, the Caribbean themed Turtle Bay.
Located in Greytown House next door to the Town Hall, this previously drab building has been wondrously transformed into three brand new restaurant units, the first of which to open, in time for Christmas, is Turtle Bay.
The Caribbean vibe hits you the moment you walk in and get your first look at this cool beach shack themed restaurant that transports you to sunnier climes. The ‘island hut’ bar takes centre stage at the front of the restaurant, ideal if you are waiting for a table or just popping in for a cocktail (more about them later) or a glass of cold Red Stripe lager. With reggae music playing in the background you really could be in a Jamaican beach bar.
Reclaimed wood and chequer-plate, lights hanging from beer crates, giant paintings on brick walls along with the open ‘street kitchen’ and a raised veranda seating area at the back of the dining area are just some of the features and little touches that give this restaurant its charismatic vibe for your unique dining experience.
And what an experience it is! Let’s start with the cocktails. They have over forty, yes FORTY, different rums from across the Caribbean which they use to make classic cocktails with, of course, a special Turtle Bay twist. I had a fair crack at working my way through the cocktail list, aided by the very friendly and knowledgeable Turtle Bay team who were happy to recommend their favourites, which of course it would have been rude not to try. Now I’m not really a rum drinker, in fact I would go so far as to say I’ve never really liked it very much, but each of my cocktails beautifully hit the spot, and after also trying a couple of neat rums too I’m now a convert.
But enough about the cocktails. Every single item from the selection of mouth-watering dishes we were served was a delight to eat. From the crispy panko coated whitebait nibbles on the bar, the sweetcorn fritters, crispy okre, and sweet plantain in the vegetarian platter, to the jerk chicken were as delicious and authentic as you could hope for. But the curry goat stole the show for me. Every trip I’ve made to Jamaica has begun with curry goat and a Red Stripe, and Turtle Bay’s take on this classic dish was up there with the best of them I’ve eaten in the Caribbean. With Sean Paul playing in the background happy memories from trips gone by soon came flooding back.
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another morsel along came a selection from the Puddings menu (yes they do call it that) which included their rum and raisin bread pudding and sticky black treacle pudding. Now I’m not really much of a dessert (or pudding!) eater but I gave in and tried a couple and they really were absolutely delicious, and the staff happily offered to pack up what we couldn’t eat to take home with us, which delighted my daughter to find she had Caribbean puddings to add to her lunchbox this morning.
Special thanks go to all the staff who worked so hard last night to make our preview night so memorable. Turtle Bay is going to be a welcome addition to Colchester High Street when it officially opens on 4th December, expanding the town’s dining options as well as a few waistlines I should think!