There’s a brand new Turtle Bay Caribbean restaurant launching in Middlesbrough this weekend, the second of its kind in the North East and it brings with it a brand new, fresh, fun vibe to Corporation Street. With £800k investment ploughed into the unit, the interior has been transformed into a little slice of the Caribbean right here in the North. I was invited to the VIP preview night to find out just what Turtle Bay has in store for visitors to Middlesbrough…
The 231 capacity restaurant is cleverly styled with mirrored walls which makes it appear well beyond its 4144 square feet, it’s bright and vibrant and everything you would expect from a Caribbean themed restaurant, there’s even a tiki style bar decked with fairy lights serving up over 40 specialty rums that Jack Sparrow would be proud of. The preview night was an informal gathering of local press and Bloggers to sample both the food and drinks menu and to find out a little more about the preparation and training that’s gone into bringing Turtle Bay to Middlesbrough town centre. The first thing I notice is the decor, a typical warm, Caribbean colour scheme broken up with large wall murals offers a welcoming, fun environment. As with all Turtle Bay restaurants, the Middlesbrough branch features those upcycled / reclaimed materials that give each restaurant a unique twist – this one features a boombox wall and oil drum lanterns which give the place a real street food vibe.
With 50 jobs created, there are enough staff to ensure a slick operation when the restaurant opens to the public on April 23rd. Servers have been put through an in-depth training programme where I’m told that the focus is on getting to know customers and finding out about their wants and needs whilst they’re dining, in order to deliver the best possible customer experience.
After being greeted with a drinks reception where I manage one signature Mojito (I’m driving) and pretty much everything from the soft drinks and coolers menu, we’re ushered into the dining area in front of an open kitchen, where we’re seated ready to begin our feast. We’re invited to try taster portions of everything from the menu, which includes some brand new additions so far only served at the Middlesbrough restaurant. As you might expect, everything served is brimming with spice, which never overpowers the flavour of the food. I won’t lie to you Voyeurs, things got messy. Turtle Bay is not a place for flatware, it might be there on the table, but this is messy food that’s meant to be handled – so you’ll be pleased to know that you’re also allocated a finger bowl to wash your hands afterwards. Think coated chicken wings, sweetcorn fritters and beef cheeks, it’s all prepared with love, super tasty, and fuss free, exactly as it should be.
Turtle Bay is all about celebrating the lively, colourful, soulful and, above all, delicious experiences that the Caribbean has to offer – from rich and explosive flavours to laid back ‘liming’. Their mission is to capture the spirit of celebration that the Caribbean is famed for around the globe – making customers happy by delivering a hedonistic combination of joyous food, wicked drinks and a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Just as food is at the heart of Caribbean culture, Turtle Bay are aiming to bring that vibe to Middlesbrough and with over 50 authentic Caribbean dishes on the menu – yes, Curry Goat and Jerk Chicken are on there – it seems that that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Now let it be known that I don’t usually cope too well with spicy food, what I mean is that whilst I love it, it turns me into a wreck – I pour with sweat but just can’t stop. This is a little different, the flavour and the spice are cut with a zest and so are perfectly balanced. You don’t compromise one for the other. Yes, I’m still bloody sweating, but it’s totally worth it and there are plenty of specially crafted, creamy coolers on the drinks menu to help take the sting out.
One of the things I like about the place is that it’s set up for ‘social dining’, seats are arranged in rows, a bit like Wagamama do, and once you’re seated, you can’t help but chat to the people seated close to you, it’s nice. There are of course, booths available for more intimate dining or for spontaneous cocktail nights with your pals, still, it’s nice to see such a welcoming environment when we’re so used to seeing people with their cellphones glued to their hands (myself included).
Turtle Bay might offer up awesome food but it cares about its cocktail menu just as much, and with 2-4-1 Happy Hour between 11.30am (yes really) – 7pm, starting up again at 10pm, it’s a must for rum enthusiasts and cocktail lovers as it includes every single cocktail on the menu. For designated drivers, the soft drinks menu is pretty damn good too, with zesty or creamy coolers and the best ginger beer I ever tasted, you’re catered for pretty well too. Driving or not, Turtle Bay Middlesbrough is well worth a visit and there’s nothing even similar in the town centre, I predict this one being rammed for the next few weeks so get amongst it Voyeurs, oh, did I mention, they have a pretty awesome playlist too…..?!
Turtle Bay Middlesbrough can be found at 32 Corporation Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2RX with ample parking within walking distance of the restaurant, free after 6pm.