Last week I was kindly invited to the new Turtle Bay restaurant in my hometown Huddersfield to learn more about Caribbean food and take a first glance at the restaurant before it opens to the public next week.The building was previously occupied by the restaurant Cotton Factory and before it shut down late last year, the place was looking a little bit worse for wear (even though it did do great pizzas). That particular side of town needed something more modern, upbeat and something with a bit of character to attract new customers and to keep up with other neighbouring cities. Although Huddersfield does have some great restaurants, many of them are quite out of town if you're looking to sample alternative cuisines and not head to the nearest chain bar. Turtle Bay may be a chain bar, but it has already added some much character to that small part of town before even opening and after the food I tasted a few days ago, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a hit with locals and visitors alike.
Turtle Bay is a restaurant that prides itself on individuality and authentic, hearty Caribbean food. The chain has 25 restaurants and all of which have been uniquely designed so that every restaurant has a different aesthetic. The Huddersfield restaurant features two rooms - a restaurant and a bar, both which are decorated in traditional Caribbean design with wooden beams, steel can lighting, bright and bold colours and an open kitchen so that all the aromas can whet your appetite as soon as you enter the building. One of my favourite parts of the Huddersfield design is the painting of the Afro-Caribbean woman on the left side of the building as soon as you walk in. It is highly detailed, instantly grabs your attention and looks really trendy. Rumour has it that Turtle Bay commissioned a local artist to paint this piece, but the rest is unknown.
After a grand tour of the building, we were sat down in the restaurant area and told the history of Caribbean food and the secret ingredients that go into a few of the dishes whilst drinking one too many Rum Punches - a drink I would highly recommend if you intend on visiting anytime soon. The Turtle Bay menu is quite diverse and caters for many dietary requirements, although if you're afraid of heat, you'll have to be cautious when eating here.
One of the main ingredients in most of the dishes is the infamous Scotch Bonnet pepper. If you haven't heard of a scotch bonnet, the scotch bonnet is possibly one of the hottest peppers around and if you ate one of the seeds, you would know about it. Thankfully Turtle Bay use this ingredient discreetly in their dishes and none of them are that hot that they would blow your head off, but a few dishes may have the more heat-intolerant diners in a sweaty disposition.
As a vegetarian I'm always intrigued by new restaurants and the dishes they have to offer. I'm always on the lookout for restaurants that offer something that I may not have tried before and that doesn't contain the words 'goats cheese' pr 'spicy bean burger'. Don't get me wrong, I love both of them but when that's the only thing you get offered nearly every time you step into a restaurant, it makes eating out a bit boring. Especially when your dining partners are raving about their new and exciting dishes.
A lot of restaurants can be quite unimaginative when it comes to vegetarians, but not Turtle Bay.
One of the dishes I was lucky to sample was the Rastafari Rundown. A traditional Caribbean dish for Rastafarians who's diets prohibit meat and fish and very occasionally, diary. This dish consists of butter beans, sweetcorn, sweet potato, herbs and root vegetables all in a coconut broth. It is served with rice'n' peas and dumplings. There's also a vegan version available on request.
The Turtle Bay restaurant in Huddersfield is open from next Friday and is definitely worth a visit. If you're looking for somewhere a bit quirky and that serves flavoursome food at relatively affordable prices, this place is for you. I cannot wait to go back with my husband.
Have you been to Turtle Bay before?