Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3HP Tel: 01392 690868
Turtle Bay is the first of the Queen Street Dining Quarter restaurants to open in Exeter’s highly anticipated new food destination; the Caribbean street food concept has been going since 2011 and has been the latest project for the man who co-founded Las Iguanas.
Investigating what was on offer prior to opening, we noted the large menu consisted of starters including pulled pork salad, duck roll and garlic and herb flatbread to name but a few. Lunch ‘n lighter included salads and wraps with a variety of meat and fish fillings whilst dinner options are split into one-pots and jerk pit BBQ. There seemed to be 1 or 2 vegetarian options in each section, and if you are pescatarian, your choice does enlarge fourfold. A good selection of puddings and an even larger selection of cocktails await your arrival.
So after receiving our invite to come along and see what was on offer, we visited mid-week, mainly because they were already fully booked over the first few weekends.
On arrival, we were seated to the right of the doorway, in a ‘dog-leg’ section as it were. I was quite happy to be in the corner here so I could people watch towards the other way, but later on in the evening when I walked around to take some photos, I realised that actually we had missed out on being right in the thick of it in the main restaurant area. Nevermind – I must say throughout the whole evening, there was an excellent ‘marketplace’ buzz.
We both ordered cocktails to start; Steve chose the Koko Colada whilst I went for my old favourite – the Espresso Martini (both £6.95 each). Mine was what you would expect in appearance, if a little too sweet though actually and not quite coffee enough for me. Perhaps I should leave this one to one of my other favourite local independents to rustle up for me in future. Steve’s drink was delicious however, an easy drinker – smooth, creamy and coconutty.
The waitress was incredibly friendly, and also clearly knowledgeable, so well done to her and the assumed training she received.
For starters I chose Sweetcorn Fritters and Steve chose the Island bait (whitebait, both priced £5.10). Imagining flat pancake like fritters, I was pleasantly suprised to receive four big sweetcorn fritter balls; they had a lovely crunchy outer and a soft doughy middle, containing sweetcorn and cooked onions – the latter with enough bite to balance the textures. It had a lovely flavour with a bit of zing, although I indulged in mixing one if the spicy tables sauces with my mayo to create a spicy dip. The whitebait were a good size, a petite portion and fried perfectly with no oil left dripping in the bucket. Good start.
Being chilli lovers, we were pleased to see the selection of spicy sauces at the table in order to up the anty on our food. We noted the cocktails were 2-4-1 before 7pm and after 10pm, and thought this was a good place for pre or post dinner drinks.
Now for main; Steve ordered the Fish Curry One Pot (£9.70) and I ordered the Red Snapper (£12.50), choosing the sweet potato mash as my accompaniment. We had seen some pots go out that looked like mussel pots so were suprised to see a glass pyrex dish arrive with the one pot in. Unfortunately the bowl was cold, so we had to send it back as the food was tepid. They did, however, make a new one fairly swiftly but my plate was cold too so this is clearly something that needs looking at. Thankfully, the way my fish had been cooked, in a foil parcel, meant it was still hot.
The one pot was flavoursome with earthy and zingy flavours, that I haven’t tasted in other offerings around the city. Steve thought it was good, but not outstanding and it could have been a larger portion and spicier. My fish was nice, and the sauce was really flavoursome. Unfortunately the sweet potato and salad were a let down – the sweet potato was like babyfood and there wasn’t much of it, I wish had gone for a sturdier starch. The salad was just leaves with a dressing on and maybe one shaving of coconut, I think they could have done so much more with this on the side of a nice piece of fish.
As we looked up around us, the surroundings included tin roof walling, graffiti style art, mismatched old speakers, woven baskets, and industrial hanging lighting although they are too low, as staff kept having to duck which was a distraction – these are impractical and really should be pulled up a smidgen. It was quite dim, which hindered menu reading (& the quality of my photos), and perhaps this explains why they have the hanging lights so low, even the shorter staff would hit their head. The main area of the restaurant consisted of a circular bar, surrounded by a variety of table types, and with an open kitchen. Lots of string lights all over the place and plenty of colour – it is a vibrant design.
Thankfully, the puddings picked us up from imperfect mains; I ordered the rum and raisin bread pudding and Steve had the rum cake – both were delicious, moist and full of rum and even pleased my savoury loving husband (both £4.85).
Drinks wise, we ended the evening on a homemade ginger beer for Steve and a peanut butter and banana smoothie for me (both £3.60). The smoothie was very tasty and a good consistency and Steve loved the very gingery ginger beer and would buy it to take home if he could.
So our verdict on this eaterie was mixed really; a good start and finish, but a very average middle and fairly priced in places…I guess you’ll have to visit to find out for yourself. It is a very different beast, and if you’re going to be different you need to do it very well or not at all. We’ll see how they get on when the rest of the competition move in.