I am really excited for the slew of new restaurants opening all around my hometown of Peterborough. The arrival of Wagamama’s, The Middleton’s Steakhouse branch (review coming soon!), and the latest addition, Turtle Bay, seem to combine for a dining renaissance in the area. Now, ‘City Franchises’ in small rural towns are largely criticised, for their price or lack of local color, but it seems Turtle Bay is different. My sister, our resident city dweller, was the first person who recommended it, but the rave reviews came pouring in thick and fast, especially with praise for their cocktails. So, when me and Annie found ourselves in Peterborough waiting for her car to be fixed, we decided to check it out.
On arrival we were greeted by a very cheery waiter who promptly showed us to a table right next to another couple having lunch, bearing in mind this was a Wednesday lunchtime and in a largely empty restaurant. This is one of my biggest bugbears with restaurants. I understand that having diners grouped in a particular area makes service easier and as we were a table of two it made sense, however when there is a choice of tables available why on earth would we want to sit right next to another table which forces you to do one of two things. Either attempt to completely ignore each other by not looking left or right for the entirety of your meal or engage in that awkward conversation that the British will only force upon themselves in such unique situations as having close proximity to a stranger. Neither is a happy prospect. But, once sat (at a more appropriate table) and given a chance to observe the décor I was pleasantly surprised I’d heard things such as “cheap” and “tacky” to describe it, especially the use of fairy lights in the windows, however I found the furnishings (with the exception of the fairy lights) really… cool. I suppose there’s no other way the put it. the lighting made the room feel like a real ‘Jerk’ joint, either hanging from old glass carriers or situated in old oil drums hanging from the ceiling, and the music and décor creating a, maybe not authentic, but certainly Caribbean feel to the place.
Drinks were swiftly ordered, once again I bemoaned the necessity of not being able to drink as I was driving (Annie always seems to wiggle out of it on review nights) and decided on a “watermelon crush”, as for some reason ‘normal’ soft drinks seemed to be absent from the menu (I’m almost certain they are available, however it may be a ploy to get you to order their more expensive mixes), while Annie chose the limeade. Our drink order was carried off to the nearby bar and we started on the menu. The menu was densely populated with many dishes, yet somehow, I managed to find very few that really jumped out at me. I was even compelled to browse the fish side of the menu, which is unusual for me, and managed to find an imaginative use of red snapper and a few other exotic items. Then my eyes rested on the “Jerk ‘n’ Pull” – slow roasted pulled jerk pork in a sweet bun with sweet onion chutney and herb mayo. Being a long-time fan of pulled pork I decided it’d be a good way to check out their jerk seasoning at its best. Starters were settled with some Duck rolls and okra ladys’ fingers and Annie decided to check out their vegetarian options with the mushroom and goat’s cheese burger. With food orders taken we waited patiently for our drinks. When they first arrived I was a little annoyed at the size of my glass (reminded me of the glasses you get with free hotel breakfasts) and the fact that it seemed to largely contain crushed ice. Annie on the other hand was surprised to find her limeade tasted rather… pineapple-ey, on further investigation it was a simple mistake on the part of the waiter coming from the new idea that it is abhorrent for waiters to write down an order but have to instead remember it like some walking, talking memory bank. I don’t know why but this is often franchise rules, for some strange reason they think we as customers will be upset if our servers aren’t able to remember and entire restaurant’s orders. Just write them down people it’s not hard.
In a flurry, our starters arrived, almost too quickly some would say. I eyed the microwaves in the open kitchen with suspect. If they were microwaved though it certainly left no impact on taste the okra was beautifully cooked and perfectly balanced spice-wise. The duck, while delicious left a little to be desired as there was not a huge amount of it and it did make a bit of a mess but the mango sauce it was served with added an extra punch seasoned, with what tasted like cinnamon, perfectly balanced out the dish.
With starters finished I ordered another watermelon crush as the first was quickly drunk to cool down the hit of spice from our starters. Next to arrive was our main course and again it arrived quickly. The presentation was hard to argue with. Presented on a board with spicy fries and skewered and topped with a pork scratching on top, a strange but welcome addition. My first bite however was disappointing. My first difficulty was simply lifting the food to my face as while I attempted to do so my board was spattered with liquid that looked suspiciously like excess water and oil from the meat and while the onion chutney was a pleasant aspect, it was a little to sparse to have any great impact on the overall taste which was not unpleasant, but certainly did not hit with as much flavour as our starters. Looking over at Annie I saw a similar pool on her board that seemed even bigger. Having ordered a mushroom burger with goat’s cheese this is often unavoidable, as mushrooms tend to draw in so much water, but it certainly didn’t add to the experience. In stark contrast was the buns. When a bun is listed as “sweet” often one would expect a brioche bun that generally absorbs the juices from the meat and provides a sweet, buttery and soft texture to the meal. What was presented however was something more reminiscent of cardboard. The bun was both tasteless and dry and left me feeling a bit cheated. For Annie’s part the mushroom burger was very tasteful but the bun suffered from the same problems as mine, and said had she chosen it as a vegetarian she would have been disappointed with it. The sides of spicy fries were a very nice addition from what I could tell as I only managed to stomach a few before realising I was full and they were pushed to one side.
With mains cleared we decided that despite being full we could find room for a shared pudding to round the experience off. The spiced rum and chocolate pot with a side of ice cream was decided on (I fancied the Rum Upside-Down Cake, but was quickly shot down), along with two spoons. When it arrived, despite its simplicity was very well presented and the rum and spices throughout it were a wonderful way to round off the meal.
When the bill arrived, I found it to be good value at around 20 pounds each so doesn’t have to break the bank, especially as the fact we had ‘cocktails’ and dessert made it a little more. For food I’d have to rate Turtle Bay 3 out of 5 for food, the starters were incredibly satisfying and the speed of the food was incredible however feel like the mains let them down in the flavour department. For service a 2 out of 5 as while it was very attentive there were some slip-ups, and nothing especially stands out for me. Atmosphere really is the saviour for me, while some people I know found it a bit cheesy I thought it was quite nice actually, very well lit, and made for a relaxed, fun atmosphere and the music accompanied the food perfectly and so grabs it a 4 out of 5 leaving an overall score of 9 out of 15
In other news, as I said at the beginning some brilliant new restaurants are opening recently around me and I’m hopping round them as quick as I can to bring you guys reviews of them but one I’m particularly excited for I’ve recently heard is the announce of the reopening of the building known as the Fitzwilliam Arms in my home village of Castor. It’s most recent iteration was the Italian restaurant Fratelli’s where I worked from a young age as a waiter and provided both and eatery and an opportunity for employment for a large section of the young people of the village. According to the latest news it will finally be reopened after 3 years of being unused, a travesty for such a lovely building. The new head chef shall be Adebola Adeshina who is an protégé of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London and shall be named “The Chubby Castor” and promises a blend of traditional and modern British cuisine. I can’t tell you how excited I am for the end of November to see if yet again I have a gem on my front door step. Watch this space for updates.