Turtle Bay, Guildford GU1 4AA - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 17:37 02 February 2015 | UPDATED: 17:47 02 February 2015
Chase away the January blues this month with a visit to the brand-new Caribbean restaurant, Turtle Bay, in Guildford
Turtle Bay, Dolphin House, 1 North Street, Guildford GU1 4AA.
Tel: 01483 300307
What we ate:
Goats Cheese & Butternut Squash FlatBread, £6.95
Jerk Chicken Wrap, £6.95
Carton of Sweet Potato Fries, £2.35
Carton of normal fries, £2.35
Diet Coke x2, £4.70
Ting Grapefruit Crush x 2, £4.90
Long white coffee, £1.70
Straight coffee, £1.70
As a rule, we generally prefer to review independent restaurants rather than chains on these pages – but once in a while a place comes along that we figure it’s worth making an exception for.
Such is Turtle Bay in Guildford, bringing something completely different to our county town with an all-singing, all- dancing taste of the Caribbean – not to mention a ray of sunshine at what is, let’s face it, the greyest time of the year.
Besides, in this case, they’re one of only a smallish chain, with just a handful of branches located around the country, and they’re also doing something pretty original too – your average ASK restaurant they are not.
The branch in Guildford, newly-opened just a matter of weeks ago, is located in the old Slug & Lettuce building at the top of the High Street (just along from TGI Friday) – and it’s fair to say that the place is hardly recognisable when compared with before.
The first thing that strikes you, from some distance actually, are the fairy lights. And as a sucker for all things illuminated, I find myself drawn to the place like a moth to a flame. Festooned with pinprick lights across the top of every window, the first impression is like a sort of Aladdin’s Cave; well, bring it on, I say.
Inside, fairy lights aside, it all feels semi-industrial somehow, but also punctuated with frequent reminders of the restaurant’s Caribbean roots – from beach hut style flooring to carnival-coloured fittings and pictures of reggae stars.
It’s also pretty huge, I realise, once I’ve sussed out what is mirror and what isn’t; to fill this place would be no small undertaking, which is perhaps why they took the decision to make it into a bar as well. Come 10 o’clock, the tables are apparently whisked away, and the place explodes into an island-inspired, rum-infused festival.
It’s an experience I will have to save for another time, as today I’m here for a quiet lunch meeting with the lovely Diana Roberts of Guildford Tourist Information – who has already eaten here once and loved it enough to insist on a return visit.
Certainly, I can see from the start that the service is second to none. When Di and I get our wires crossed, and I rock up at the restaurant instead of at her office, the staff can’t do enough to make me feel welcome, wanted and anything but alone.
By the time Di arrives, I am merrily sipping on a Diet Coke, chatting with various members of the team, my only regret that I am not sampling one of the delicious sounding cocktails on the menu.
Because this is a working lunch, we decide to skip the starters (or cutters, to use the Caribbean parlance), but we could have chosen from any number of enticing options ranging from Pepper Roti to Jamaican Fried Bait or even a mixture of several dishes in the Beach Food Platter – next time, for sure.
Instead, after much deliberation, we settle on our main courses, and enjoy a bit more banter with the staff as we look forward to what’s to come.
And in what seems like no time at all, the dishes arrive steaming at our table, wonderful smells emanating from them.
My Goats Cheese & Butternut Squash FlatBread, which also comes with aubergine, grilled tomatoes, onion and fresh thyme, proves just as appetising as it sounds – the bread light and crispy and the toppings tasty.
Across the table, meanwhile, Di is over the moon with her Jerk Chicken Wrap – it’s the second time that she’s had this dish and she is just as happy with her choice this time as last.
Between us, we decide to share a carton of sweet potato fries and another of normal fries – both of which turn out to be suitably moreish.
I’m afraid, dear reader, we were too full for dessert, but perhaps had it been an evening engagement we might have gone for a Spiced Chocolate Pot, Banana Fritters or even Caymanas Rum Cake.
As it is, we order a stiff coffee each, in the hope that it will set us up nicely for an afternoon’s work, but we can’t help but make ambitious plans for our return visit – dreaming of Caribbean cocktails under those alluring fairy lights.
Next time, it’s going to be Jamaican Mules, Cuban cigars and dancing on the tables; you mark my words.
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