Turtle Bay opened its doors in Exeter only last year, and is situated in the new Guildhall development alongside Comptoir Libanais, KuPP, and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The Caribbean restaurant and bar joins the fourteen other Turtle Bays across the UK and is a much-needed addition to Exeter’s rapidly expanding restaurant scene.
From the outside, Turtle Bay appears as an Aladdin’s Cave, with twinkly lights hanging down from the glass walls and quirky lampshades in the windows. It stands boldly in comparison to the surrounding restaurants, with its bright colours enticing passers-by. On entering, the restaurant has a vibrant feel due to the array of unique lampshades and brightly painted walls surrounding the hexagonal bar. For a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was surprisingly busy, but this was not an issue as it only added to the lively atmosphere. The lighting is dim which gives it a rustic feel and the funky music played blurred the line between a restaurant and a bar.
Turtle Bay offers a large menu with a variety of food choices. Starters are named as ‘Begin’ and there are several dishes available, including gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. We ordered the ‘crispy chilli squid’ and the ‘garlic and chilli prawns’, which were sizeable portions compared to conventional starters, but we enjoyed them all anyway as the food was so delicious. The squid is dusted in spiced panko and served with mango mole, coriander mayonnaise and lime, which created a unique flavour and is something I cannot wait to have again. It was slightly spicy, but perfectly manageable if spice isn’t your thing, however, there are also milder alternatives available. For main meals, there are several different options separated into four categories: ‘Beach Salads, ‘Burgers & Buns’, ‘Jerk Pit BBQ’ and ‘One Pots’. Due to the large range in meal choice, there is something for everyone as well as a ‘Lunch ‘n’ Lighter’ section for those with a smaller appetite.
For our main meals, we ordered the ‘curry goat’ and the ‘jammin lamb burger’. I chose to have goat as I’d never eaten it before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The taste is similar to lamb, and as it had been stewed the meat was tender and soft to eat. The sauce was moderately spicy with fruity undertones and is something I would definitely recommend trying. The dish was served with ‘coconut rice ‘n’ peas’ and festival dumplings which complemented the curry goat well, making it a filling and enjoyable meal. The burger had a Caribbean twist, served with a pineapple glaze and mint leaves, plus spiced fries which are a livened-up version of commonly bland chips. We both had the ‘banana and toffee cheesecake’ for dessert, which is essentially a banoffee pie in cheesecake form covered in a toffee sauce, and although it didn’t strike as being particularly Caribbean, it was tasty all the same. For the more courageous diner, there are authentic Caribbean desserts on offer too such as the ‘caymanas upside down rum cake’.
Turtle Bay embraces the already thriving cocktail scene in Exeter, featuring Happy Hours every day across the week. Each cocktail is £7.15; however, two-for-one cocktails are available until 7pm every day, from 9.30pm until close between Sundays and Thursdays, and 10pm until close on Fridays and Saturdays, making it an affordable option for a cocktail night. For drinks, we took advantage of the two-for-one cocktail offer, choosing the Marley mojito, a twist on the classic mojito, featuring ginger beer, melon liqueur, and watermelon. I also had the soft drink Ting, which is a refreshing Caribbean citrus drink with grapefruit juice.
For students on a budget, Turtle Bay is more on the expensive side, particularly dishes from the ‘Jerk Pit BBQ’, with meals starting at £10.25. However, the food is definitely worth the price, as the meals are substantial with exotic and unique flavours, and the innovative cocktails are not to be found anywhere else in Exeter. So, whether it be for lunch, the full dining experience, or just a sit at the bar, Turtle Bay is a must visit before the term ends.
– by Emma Hookway