Turtle Bay Restaurant and Bar, a chain so heavy on the branding I assumed Levi Roots was the MD. Regardless, Turtle Bay is rapidly sprawling across the UK, Preston being the latest venture. Initial impressions were that Turtle Bay Preston brought a much-needed splash of colour to the city centre if nothing else, and any business opening in the wake of this recession was welcome. This might be the chilli sauce talking, but Turtle Bay Preston could be that rare establishment that is family-friendly yet stylish enough to attract late night drinkers. Time will tell, but the early signs were positive.
However, I’m sceptical of themed restaurants that attempt to offer something exotic. They often descend into the painfully ordinary (I’m looking at you Wagamama). The obvious pitfall was the restaurant soundtrack; however, the music at Turtle Bay Preston was spot on. I was expecting to hear ‘Legend’ on repeat, but the mixture of ska, reggae, dancehall and dub, with commercial and lesser known tracks set an upbeat but relaxed tone. It’s a shame it took a national chain like Turtle Bay to be the first and only restaurant (or venue of any kind) in Preston to have a decent Caribbean soundtrack, despite a clear demand for it.
Anyway, the menu at Turtle Bay Preston offered simple food that was big on flavour. Although a faff to eat, the Babyback Ribs were ridiculously good; so good Frank Underwood might have found a new home. Diners got a whole rack of slow roast and glazed pork ribs with either a BBQ or Jerk Gravy coating. Either way you’ll need forty-five napkins to tackle the job.
Similarly, it’s impossible to eat enough of those fried sweetcorn fritters. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re only suitable for vegetarians. It’s for your own good, eat them. The heavily laden sweet potato fries were as delicious as any I’ve experienced, although a bit soggy. The spices across all the dishes were big, bold and brash – just as they should be. In a moment of snobbishness I lamented every dish was strangely the same colour, but when it’s packed with punchy flavours, it’s entirely forgivable.
A minor point perhaps, but Turtle Bay Preston’s condiment game was on point. Everything got dipped into either Aunt May’s Bajan Pepper Sauce, Encona BBQ or Econa Hot Curry Sauce at some point. The only let down where the overly heavy Dumplings, which really needed the extra sauces. Fun fact, Home Bargains across the road, randomly stock a range of Encona Hot Sauces for a quid. Assuming you like spice, they have the ability to turn literally anything into an at least an average meal; anyway, I digress.
Turtle Bay Preston is one of the many themed restaurants where the drinks are either too expensive or too cheap, depending what side of Happy Hour you arrive. The Happy Hour times are generous though, and I suspect the cause of a lot of traffic. Ordering from the drinks menu provided fun rather than sophistication, with the high-energy bar staff serving customers thick and fast. Fortunately, Bar Manager Dave is on hand for those with a more discerning palette. Ask him about the spiked home-made ginger beer and you’re in for a treat.
Turtle Bay Preston Review Score
It seemed the only thing missing from the restaurant’s relentless Caribbean branding was having anyone who looked like they’d ever seen the sun, let alone of Caribbean heritage cooking. Regardless, the bar was fun and during happy hour, very good value. Turtle Bay Preston was hot, flavourful, simple…good soul food as intended.
Atmosphere 8 Cost 8 Quality 8 Service 8
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Other Restaurant Reviews of Turtle Bay (Nationwide)
- Christie’s Lifestyle (Norwich): “Slow Braised Beef Rib also makes a new appearance on the menu and comes served with sweet potato fries and a watermelon salad.”
- On Magazine (Leeds): “…the duck, also served with rice and peas, has hints of cinnamon and a bit of a heat burst…”
- La Blog Beaute (Cheltenham): “As we stepped through the door, I instantly fell in love the vibrancy of the restaurant…”