This is kind of a preview but also a review so bear with me! Turtle Bay opened for a soft launch last night and officially opened to the public today.Housed in what used to be the much loved, eclectic clientele, pub Far From The Madding Crowd in Friar’s Entry news of another chain restaurant opening was met with sighs and grumblings. There aren’t many different pubs in Oxford left so losing one would hurt. Luckily, The White Rabbit is still down the alley. I’d planned on walking past, taking a few photos of the exterior for our restaurant listing and then going back to eat at some point but a combination of smily, waving staff and a restaurant decorated in my favourite colour led to me wandering in. And the fairy lights. I’m a sucker for twinkly lights which make everything better!
Greeted by an insanely happy waiter, I was allowed to choose my own table so I chose a corner one where I could observe everything! The menu comprises what is apparently authentic Caribbean food, although as I’ve never really had proper Caribbean food I can’t really confirm that. Starters include Jamaican fried whitebait, sweetcorn fritters, jerk wings and pepper roti. As you’d expect there’s a lot of peppers.
Pleasingly, there’s a lunch and light bites section which is divided into buns: jerk pulled chicken, pork or a beef burger. Wraps: shrimp and mango, jerk chicken or spiced goat. Flatbreads: jerk chicken or goat’s cheese and butternut squash. Grills: lunch jerk ribs or 1/4 jerk chicken. All of these are £6.95 each and having seen a few of them, they’re pretty good value and a good lunch deal.
There’s the expected Jerk BBQ section which includes lamb, ribs, chicken, salmon, double dipped pork and steak, goat burger all ranging in price from £9.85 to £15.50.
Finally there’s the One Pot section which includes rich and slow cooked curries and stews, such as shrimp and mango curry, curry goat and chickpea and curry squash.
I went for the lunch plate of jerk ribs and barely had time to take photos before they were presented in front of me. Slim, hot, crispy french fries in a metal pot with a generous helping of Caribbean slaw and four ribs smothered in a rich brown innocuous looking sauce. That sauce blew my socks off! I love spicy food and the aromatic, woody, green heat of the allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers left my mouth tingling for some time after I finished eating! It’s spicy, but not overpoweringly so. You get that warming sensation inside, the slightly sniffy nose and the tingling sensation but not so hot that you need to stop eating.
Which was lucky because those ribs were damn good. Slow cooked and succulent enough to pick up the bone and the meat slides off. I’m a rib connoisseur and am disappointed far more often than I should be but I could happily have eaten a lot more of these. I’d probably have melted in the process but it would have been totally worth it!
By the way, fried dumplings are perfect for mopping up that jerk sauce!
No time for dessert but the pink lemonade was a perfect panacea to that heat and provided the sweetness needed. There’s a very extensive cocktail list that has a lot of rum so I’m expecting Jacqui to rock up there very soon!
Oh and I loved the reggae soundtrack. Oxford may have lost one of it’s few independent pubs to what is essentially a chain restaurant but it’s not as bad as we feared. Food is good, it looks good and it could have been far, far worse!