Turtle Bay Middlesbrough's VIP Preview Event*

25 Apr 2017

Living in Middlesbrough, it can be kind of difficult to keep up with all of the new restaurants, shops and cafes that open. It feels like there's a new one almost every week! However, I've had my eye on one empty unit for a while, wondering what it was going to be filled with. It was a pretty big space in the centre of town, so I was really excited to find out what it would be transformed into. My wish was granted when an email flew into my inbox, asking if I'd like to come along to the VIP preview event for the brand new Turtle Bay restaurant! I just couldn't skip out on the chance to see this place before any of the public, so of course, I said yes! I also found out that it had been an £800k investment, so I was just desperate to see how the interior looked and get a glimpse of the menu.

Now before I go into waffling on about how great this night was, let me just tell you a little bit about my relationship with blogging events.

Before I had The Northernist, I authored a blog called Olivia's Notebook. It was relatively successful in that it had quite a large following and as a result, I used to get invited to events, but I, the cripplingly shy person that I am, would turn them all down. There were a few times where I accepted the invite, then ended up having massive panic attacks just before leaving for the event or making myself sick with nervousness.

I decided that with The Northernist, it was going to be different. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone to get over this fear of new people and new places, and that's exactly what I did. And you know what? I feel bloody great for doing it! I got to meet some really fab people, try some amazing food and soak up the electric atmosphere. Let me tell you a bit more about my experience.
When I first walked through the door, I was greeted by Maya, the lovely lady that had helped organise the whole thing. I told her straight that I was kind of nervous about being on my own and that it was my first event, so she kindly sat me next to Katie (Lady From A Tramp) and Vicky (Describe The Sky) at the bar. I'll admit, I did feel a bit like a tag along at first, but we ended up having a brilliant time together!

The bar was located in the middle of the room, like an island, and it was a rectangular shape with seating all around it, so you can sit on any side and see all around the space. Above our heads hung bunches of glasses that our drinks were made in, and above them were bottles and bottles of spirits. Seriously, I'm not sure I've ever seen so much alcohol in my life! I was asked what I fancied drinking and I let the bar man make me anything from the mocktail menu to start with. He went for a Passionfruit Cooler, which was insane. If you aren't into alcohol, this is definitely a drink you should try! It was the first of many that I had, along with Watermelon Crush, Ginger Beer and Green Bottle. I'm pretty sure that the bar was dry once we were all through with it!
Along with our drinks, we were also treated to some bar nibbles before the event started. These are brand new to the menu and they're absolutely perfect for snacking on if you're just going out for a few drinks. There are Jamaican Jerk Nuts, Spicy Pork Rinds and Jam Rock Popcorn - the latter being the best by far. I wasn't too keen on the nuts or the pork rinds, but that popcorn was phenomenal. It was so flavoursome and really addictive to eat. Also, can we just take a second to appreciate the fact that they're all stored in these mason jars? It's just a bloggers dream come true!
One thing I was really into about the restaurant was the decor. It's all very industrial with lots of metal and graffiti-style artwork adorning the walls. I wished I'd taken more photos of it all to give you a better idea, but it was seriously cool.

Whilst it had that hard, industrial look, there was still so much colour and vibrancy. The bare light bulbs and metal ceiling fans were contrasted against the bright reds, yellows and greens that we tend to associate with Caribbean culture, which really added to the atmosphere and authenticity of the place. Several walls were also paved in mirrors, giving the space a much larger appearance. Even though this restaurant can quite comfortably seat 231 people, these mirrored walls gave the impression that it could hold so many more!

Once everyone had arrived and had a drink in hand, we all gathered around the bar to hear a little bit about the types of rum on offer (seriously, there were about 40 different types, which is enough to make even Jack Sparrow a bit woozy). We were then shown to groups of tables where we would be having our delicious Caribbean feast. I loved that the kitchen was open, so we were all able to see the chefs while they cooked and the huge barbecue flames. None of us had any idea what was in store or how many courses there would be, but we were pleasantly surprised, to say the least!
First up was two sharing platters - one for veggies and one for meat lovers. Stupidly, I didn't take a photo of the meat platter, but how gorgeous does the veggie one look? There were sweetcorn fritters, a mini superfood salad, and oven-baked rotis among other things. On the meat platter, there were beef patties, jerk chicken wings and ribs. All of it was absolutely gorgeous, especially the chicken wings, and I don't even really like chicken on the bone! It was so succulent that it practically fell off the bone and just melted in your mouth. The beef patties were also stunning - they were kind of like mini slices of pie.
We were given a little break to allow our starters to settle and order more drinks before our next courses arrived.

We were presented with a vegan curry, which was filled with aubergine, sweet potato and okra. I'd never had okra before, but oh wow, I absolutely love it! The sweet potato was also seasoned to perfection and had just the right amount of spice.

On the opposite end of the scale, we were also given a beef cheek curry - it was out of this world, no word of a lie. The beef was so tender and juicy that it just fell apart in your mouth. I could have eaten that whole bowl to myself! I know that when I visit again, this will be the dish that I suggest to J. As a meat-loving South African, it has his name written all over it. It was a lot milder than the vegan curry, which I prefer as I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice, but it still had a little kick to it.
Again, we had another drink break, then my favourite of all the courses arrived. On one board, we had a whole roast jerk chicken with a side of extra jerk sauce, and on the other, we had a rack of jerk ribs that was topped off with the most amazing green-coloured sauce.

The meat on the ribs was absolutely beautiful. I don't think I've ever had beef that tasted that good in my life, and when eaten with the green sauce, it was just magical. I think the waiter said it contained coriander and mint among many other things.

For me, though, it was the jerk chicken that stole the show. As I previously said, I'm not a huge fan of chicken on the bone, but oh my goodness, this stuff was gorgeous. It was cooked to absolute perfection - a crisp outside with a juicy, tender inside. I would order this again in a heartbeat. I didn't have any of the jerk sauce with it, but I'm assuming that it's sticky and a little bit spicy.

They were both served up with sides of crispy sweet potato fries and I'm pretty sure I polished off one portion of them on my own. It ain't no crime to love a good sweet potato fry!
We thought that that would be our final course, but oh no, the last of the savoury courses came in the form of a jerk parmo - something that isn't even on the menu! If you aren't based in the North East of England, you might be like 'what the heck is a parmo?' A parmo is a piece of butterflied chicken breast that's been covered in breadcrumbs and fried, then topped with bechamel sauce and cheese. It's a big thing in Middlesbrough, which is why the chefs at Turtle Bay made the dish especially for the night. I think they're missing a trick by not having it on the menu because it was so good.

It had a drizzle of the same yummy green sauce that was on top of the jerk ribs, so I had to try a piece with that on and I was in love. I love a good parmo, but this one with it's slightly spicy twist topped them all. It was seriously delicious and if they put that on the menu, I swear I'd be a regular! It was served up with a side of sweet potato, which was also pretty darn tasty.
We were all pretty much bursting at the seams by this point, so when our dessert platters arrived, we struggled a little bit. I did get to sample a little bit of each dessert, though (you guys know I'm a pudding person), so I've got a pretty solid idea of which was my favourite.

On the platter, there were slices of grilled barbecue pineapple, passionfruit pie (which was like lemon meringue, but with passionfruit), rum and raisin bread pudding, banana and toffee cheesecake, and dark chocolate brownies. Each of them were so tasty, but it was the banana and toffee cheesecake that stole my heart. I couldn't get enough of the toffee sauce that the slices were topped with! If I wasn't so stuffed, I could've quite happily eaten a full slice to myself. It was smooth, creamy and bursting with flavour!

Once we'd finished the last of our drinks, we said our goodbyes and headed off home feeling full to the brim with food and good memories. It was such a fun night that it made me wonder why I was ever nervous to start with. Everyone that I spoke to was so lovely, including all of the staff, and I had such a wonderful time.

Turtle Bay is definitely somewhere that I see myself going back to time and time again. I've tried some of their menu, but I want to try the rest now! If you like a bit of spice and vibrancy to your food, as well as a cool atmosphere, this is the place to go.
Turtle Bay Middlesbrough officially opened on the Sunday just gone, so I bet it's already been booming with customers! If you're in Middlesbrough and fancy trying it out, you can find it next to Barclay's bank, just across the road from the town hall (on the corner of Albert Road and Corporation Road).

This meal was provided by Turtle Bay in exchange for a blog post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Whould you like to comment?

  1. Hey Olivia!

    What a lovely opportunity. I didn't know you had another blog before this. It's a big thing to rebuild something- I think, particularly after success. That's a big thing to be proud of!

    I'm so glad you took a leap into the unknown, and despite your nerves, allowed your excitement to rule! It sounds like you had a most enjoyable evening indeed.

    Also, I'm kind of jealous that new places pop up every week where you are. I wish I could say the same. I'm left visiting the same places over and over again.


    1. Yup, I did! While it was 'successful', my heart just wasn't in it. I was only writing it to try and fit in - I didn't enjoy the content at all! My heart is fully in what I talk about on here, so while there aren't as many followers, I'm just loving having the space! This opportunity was a complete surprise and it made me feel great knowing that I was doing something right :)

      It was such a great night. I don't even know what I was afraid of anymore! x

  2. This place looks fab, and there's a Turtle Bay in Brixton not too far from where I live in London! I'll definitely have to give it a visit now.


    1. Ohhh you definitely have to go! I know there are a few things in the Middlesbrough branch that are exclusive, so maybe the Brixton one will have some too! x

  3. Those pictures are just mouth watering! Gosh I'm so hungry right now. It sounds like you had a great time at this event. And I applaud you for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I know it's something I struggle with a lot. I really need to psych myself up to be prepared for an outing like that. And often I chicken out at the last minute. I'm getting better at it I hope!
    If I'm ever in Middlesbrough I'll definitely try Turtle Bay! ^_^

    1. Haha, sorry for making you hungry! There are Turtle Bays all over the country, so definitely take a look and see if there any close by. I'm exactly the same with needing to psych up before something like this, but it was so worth conquering the fear for one night! x