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Eat, Sleep, Drink

Review: Turtle Bay

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Like most Oxford locals, I’ve been to Turtle Bay a few times before to take advantage of their happy hour or for a quick bite before heading out, but my recent visit was the first time I’d been for a long, indulgent meal accompanied of course by a few of their far too gulpable cocktails.

Upon arrival, fresh out of the cold and looking like it might rain, I received a warm welcome and was immediately hit by the vivid smell of spicy jerk and fresh fruit from the cocktail shaker. The bar is central – the main event – with the rest of the restaurant built around it, making it clear they know what it is they do best.

I met my boyfriend there for dinner, and while we live together, I feel like meeting at the restaurant always makes it feel a bit more like a date. While you might not imagine this to be the most romantic setting, it’s a great date spot as the casual relaxed feel puts you at ease. While the restaurant was quiet on the Thursday night we were there and the service a little slow, we were in no rush. Despite the calm, the restaurant maintained its energy, with the help of some upbeat Caribbean music which always helps to make your visit feel more intimate without the thought of being overheard or watched.

We managed to arrive right in between the happy hour windows, but still thought it was worth going all out with the cocktails. I always have such trouble choosing from this side of their menu, with each drink sounding more tempting than the last. We opted for a Passion Rum Punch (dark rum and passionfruit, fresh lime, and pineapple), and a Strawberry Daiquiri (Duppy White and fresh lime, berry, and strawberry). We of course exchanged sips of each other’s – it’s only fair – and both were dangerously delicious.

There were a few popular items missing from the menu, but after much deliberation, we decided on our food. To start I had the crispy chilli squid, a firm favourite, and he had the Jerk Pit wings. The squid was perfectly crispy and crunchy with a peppery kick, served with a tangy mild jerk mayo dip – a satisfying start to the meal. The sticky-looking jerk pit wings were tender and well-balanced flavour-wise, and the portion size was generous but not so big that you were left full or overwhelmed by spice before mains.

I went for the Jerk salmon with spiced fries which were so good I had to take some home, failing to finish them all. The salmon was incredibly flavoursome with a crispy skin and a melty texture – all paired perfectly with the fresh zingy slaw. Across the table my boyfriend had the slow roasted Baby Back Ribs, covered in sticky mango BBQ sauce, served with juicy grilled pineapple. He claims to be attempting a fully pescatarian diet, but I guess this menu offered meat too good to refuse. It looked filthily good and bursting with fiery sweet flavour. As cliché as it sounds, with a slight push of the fork it slid away from the bone: this one is a definite must-try. We also shared a side of Grilled Jerk Halloumi which, if it wasn’t for the grill marks, I would’ve assumed was cut fresh from the block – it could’ve done with a bit longer but the smooth and fragrant Jerk sauce made up for it.

There were a few desserts on the menu, too (including ice creams, poached pineapple, and cheesecake) but by this stage I was so full I couldn’t look at the remnants left on my plate let alone order more – I’ll have to come back just for a pudding.

Considering Turtle Bay is a well-known chain, it’s packed with charm and character, and I’d really recommend it for a casual spot or ‘might go out later’ drink(s) and a bite. If you get in fast, you can make the most of some of the great deals they have on offer this Valentine’s Day and beyond.

Treat yourself and a loved one as Turtle Bay Oxford celebrates One Love with Caribbean inspired Valentine's and Galentine's Bottomless Dinner and menus. Guests can join Turtle Bay from Sunday 12-Tuesday 14 February, and everyone's invited. Guests can also use Turtle Bay's £10 no-strings attached gift until 16 February for a Valentine's bargain.

turtlebay.co.uk

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