When it comes to appreciating Caribbean food, I admit that I was late to the party. And what a party it is – vibrant colours, exotic flavours and those spices… Delicious. I only discovered what I’d been missing out on during our honeymoon to the Caribbean last year, so when the opportunity arose to sample the delights of the Caribbean and review the new menu at Turtle Bay, in Crawley, West Sussex I jumped at the chance.
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Turtle Bay Review
Turtle Bay is a Caribbean restaurant in Crawley, West Sussex (there are also Turtle Bay restaurants throughout the U.K.). It’s all about the rum, reggae and jerk – you feel the Caribbean vibe as soon as you walk in. Taking centre stage is the bar; designed to resemble a beach bar it’s all corrugated iron, Caribbean beer branding and outdoor fairy lights. It was also lively for a Wednesday and perhaps helped by the Happy Hour offering 2 for 1 cocktails until 7 pm. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a rum punch, and why stop at one when you can have two?
The restaurant keeps to this style, full of colour with Caribbean logos adorning the walls. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun – the perfect place to go for drinks, a meal with friends or a weekday date night. What’s more, the staff are really friendly and welcoming and couldn’t have been more helpful while we were dining.
The menu – featuring vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options
Turtle Bay recently relaunched its latest menu, adding a number of new options including a range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. While this seems to be a growing trend in the food and drink industry, it didn’t feel like Turtle Bay was simply jumping on the bandwagon; the menu offers a broad selection of genuinely delicious dishes for those with dietary requirements, instead of a couple of token ones for the sake of it.
Having literally that day been advised to follow a gluten-free diet the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. There were so many options for me to choose from, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the Caribbean taste experience in the slightest.
Starting on the left and heading clockwise: Caribbean Craft Lager, roti flatbread with curried chickpeas, jerk pit ribs, dark chocolate brownie and jerk sirloin steak.
To begin, I went for the jerk pit ribs with a pineapple glaze (£5.10). This was quite a random choice for me as I don’t eat a lot of meat and have never chosen ribs before, but I figured when in Rome (or Crawley…). My verdict: delicious – the meat fell off the bone, and the pineapple jerk was delightfully fruity. My husband went for the trini doubles – street vendor style “puffed up” bara roti flatbreads, with spiced curried chickpeas, cucumber and mango chutney and fresh shredded coconut (£5.10). The dish was super tasty and certainly had a kick – which is exactly what you’re after from a Caribbean restaurant.
There is so much on the menu to choose from by way of mains, and it was great to see an extensive beach salad section – as it’s always nice to have a healthy option and this isn’t something you’d always expect from a Caribbean menu. That said, we threw ourselves into the more hearty dishes; I went for the gluten free, one pot spinach, aubergine and sweet potato curry full of green beans, kidney beans and sugar snap peas – again delicious, with a kick (£9.95), and my husband enjoyed a jerk sirloin steak – the classic glaze was perfect (£16.95). Worth noting is that with all the jerk pit barbecue dishes, you can go for a healthier option and add a “festival salad” made up of avocado, mango, watermelon, carrot and squash ribbons, gem lettuce, crispy chickpeas, sugar snap peas, coconut shavings and a citrus lime dressing. My mouth is watering just writing that.
I am a dessert fiend so we couldn’t let the opportunity to sample a pudding pass us by. There is a range of delicious-sounding Caribbean sweet treats to be had, but as I was on a gluten free diet we had to go for the slightly less Caribbean dark chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream but my goodness it was great (£4.95). And it came garnished with coconut, so it was practically Caribbean.
On the drinks front, as I was driving I could sadly not sample the rum punch – but from the crowd by the bar, it looked like all of the cocktails were going down very well. I did, however, enjoy an extremely refreshing and tropical pineappleade – home-made pineapple and fresh lime juice topped with club soda. My husband took one for the team and got stuck into the local (to the Caribbean, not Crawley!) beer – enjoying a Caribbean craft lager and a Jamaican pale ale.
Since moving to Sussex most of my time has been spent exploring its coast. I know little about Crawley, but what I do know is that it offers fresh, delicious, reasonably priced Caribbean food and drink as part of a fun and friendly dining experience courtesy of Turtle Bay. If you find yourself in the area, I suggest you check it out.
For more information visit their website TurtleBay.co.uk.
Alexandra is a lifestyle blogger and creator of SeasideLivingBlog.com