An Autumn Date Night at Turtle Bay Middlesbrough*

2 Sept 2018

Let's get one thing clear before I jump into this blog post. I can most definitely use "autumn" in the title, right? It's September (where is the time going?), it's colder and Bake Off has started. In my mind, that means that summer is pretty much done with. I'm also seeing all the A/W fashion trends popping up. Is anyone else absolutely living for all of the tartan and leopard print? And along with the A/W clothing has come a change in restaurant menus. This isn't something that all eateries do, but many will switch up their menu with the changing season and one of the places that falls into this category is Turtle Bay. Myself and my partner, better known as Articulate (he's also working on The Southernist - keep your eyes peeled for that), were invited along to try out their new dishes, so we declared date night and headed along.

I think you guys all know about Turtle Bay by now, but if not, it promises "to transport you to the Caribbean without a plane ticket" through it's food and drink inspired by the islands. Here in Middlesbrough, we were lucky enough for a branch to open last year, so we don't have far to go get our hands on jerk flavours or rum-based cocktails. It has quickly become one of my favourite places to eat (mainly because of their insanely good Goat Curry) and it offers something for everyone - mocktails for non-drinkers, extensive vegetarian and vegan options that aren't just fake meats or mushroom dishes, gluten-free choices, paleo options and a range of meats for carnivores. 

Don't be put off by the fact that this is a chain restaurant. This isn't like Wetherspoon's where food is brought to the table suspiciously quickly and tastes kind of cardboard-y. Every meal that I have had there has been such high quality and cooked perfectly, and this trip was no exception.
 Luckily for Alex and I, we arrived slightly earlier than our 7pm booking, which meant that we could still take advantage of the cocktail happy hour. This runs from 11:30am - 7pm, and then again from 9:30pm - close, and allows you to get 2-4-1 cocktails. Is that not the longest happy hour you've ever heard of? We absolutely couldn't resist and scoured the cocktail menu before making our choices.

Being a fruity drink lover, I opted for the Raspberry Reggae, which is a gorgeous blend of dark rum, raspberries, lime, lemonade and vodka or gin. I've been finding myself massively into gin lately, so I had to give the gin option a go. Alex chose the little more "out there" UB40 cocktail. As you might've guessed, this contains red wine, blackberry brandy, white rum, raspberry, honey and ginger beer. As we received two of each, we both got to have one of the pair to ourselves and pick a fave.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Raspberry Reggae, but I found it to be a little bit too tart. It was really refreshing, but the raspberry was so sharp! It's definitely something that I'd maybe pair with a sweet dessert to balance things out in the future. So surprisingly, the UB40 was my favourite, despite hating the taste of red wine. The combination of flavours made this a "properly adult cocktail" in Alex's words and was deliciously sweet with an aftertaste of ginger. It was simply sublime!

With a drink (or drinks) in hand, we set about looking through the food menu.

I used to think that I was quite good at trying new things, and I still think I am, but when it comes to Turtle Bay, I have a few firm favourite - one of them being the Jerk Glazed Pit Ribs to start. I don't know how they do it, but those ribs are perfect every single time and this time was no exception. As always, the meat had been marinaded to perfection, leaving the meat extremely flavoursome and tender. It fell clean away from the bone, meaning their is minimal mess is you're a pick-it-up-and-eat-it type of person. There is a slight heat to them, but as someone that can't handle spicy food whatsoever, I can manage and enjoy them. Topped off with coconut shavings and sweet orange chutney, these are something that I would label as 'must try' for the meat eaters.
Across the table, Alex was tucking into his Crispy Chilli Squid. Something you'll learn about this fella, if he features in more foodie posts, is that he likes pretty much everything. He'll try anything once and finds it difficult to pin down foods that he doesn't like (except tomatoes, but even then, he's not too fussed if he has to eat one). Me being a bit picky, I was slightly annoyed that he'd chosen something seafood-based because I was certain that I either wouldn't like it or wouldn't want to try it at all. To my surprise, I did both of those things! While I think I would've preferred it slightly crispier, the sample I tried was honestly delicious. It reminded me a lot of the scampi I used to eat at my grandma's house, so it was somewhat nostalgic.

After whetting our appetites with our starters, it was time for the main course, which is where the new menu was particularly noticeable. With a whole new lunch 'n' later menu, including burgers and flatbreads, 4 new curries and a brand new sides menu that promises to offer a unique, tapas-style dining experience.
As there was a whole new burger menu, it would have been rude for us to not have one to try! I went for the Shack Stack Burger, which is a seasoned beef burger topped off with jerk pork belly, mature cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and jerk BBQ sauce. I'll admit, I was also tempted by the Smoking Goat Burger, but I wasn't disappointed with my choice. It was a good burger should be - tall, sturdy and cooked to perfection. Both the beef and pork were juicy and seasoned to perfection, making it a ridiculously enjoyable meal.

With the new menu has come a brand new concept. The lunch 'n' later options are now served by themselves, so you basically just pay for the burger or flatbread and that's what you get (of course, they've got a cheaper price because they don't come with a side). But if you want to spice it up, there's a menu of sides for you to pick and choose from. There's the usual fries, dirty fries, halloumi bites, quinoa, rice... a whole host of things! And the best part is that you can have any for £2.90 alongside your meal, or you can turn it into tapas and have two for £5.40, three for £8, four for £10 or five for £12. It turns your dining experience into something to share rather than just having fries to yourself. I absolutely love this concept and can't wait to go back and try out new combinations!

However, I opted to have Sweet Potato Fries with my burger because I'm the most basic person on the planet, and come on, how can I resist sweet potato?! They go with absolutely everything, so complemented my burger perfectly. They were crispy, just as good sweet potato fries should be, and there was just the right amount to fill me up comfortably.
Alex knew that he wanted to try one of the One Pot meals after I had raved about the Goat Curry to him. With four new One Pots, he wasn't short on choice and found it difficult to settle on something. After much um-ing and ahh-ing, he went for the vegan Aubergine Curry. As the name might suggest, this was aubergine and sweet potato in a light, fragrant curry sauce with steamed rice and roti flatbread. He was massively impressed when the casserole dish was brought to the table and the lid was removed with some dramatics. In his words, it was "the perfect meal for those soon to be upon us winter evenings" - warming and inviting. Despite being a lover of a good lamb rogan josh, Alex loved the curry and said "it is a truly excellent dish that can be enjoyed regardless of whether you're a practising vegan or not."

For his side, he chose the Dirty Curry Fries after it was recommended by our fabulous server, Dave, and these were also not to disappoint. As you can see from the image, these were fries loaded up with the same curry sauce from the Aubergine Curry, cheese and chopped leeks, and they were absolutely divine! While I didn't sample his curry, I couldn't keep my hands off these fries, despite feeling full from my own meal. These would work perfectly as a tapas option or as a little side for a cocktail.
We decided to take a slight breather whilst we pondered over the dessert menu. It didn't take us long to decide what we'd like to try, especially as Dave pointed out the new dessert cocktails. We absolutely knew that we had to try one, so we both went for a Guilty Pleasure, which is the most heavenly blend of Baileys, banana liqueur, rum caramel sauce and vanilla. Honestly, it blew our minds. It was one of the most sweetest and delicious cocktails I think I've ever had, and as Alex said, it was "pure sex." It tasted exactly like the dessert we ordered in liquid form...
And that dessert was my tip top favourite thing from Turtle Bay, the Banana and Toffee Cheesecake. I really do need to branch out and try other things on the menu, but this cheesecake seriously has my heart. It has three layers - creamy soft cheese, banana and toffee - all stacked on top of a crispy biscuit base and finished with a decent helping of toffee sauce. It is the perfect accompaniment to the Guilty Pleasure cocktail, so if you go along, please please please try them out!

Of course, we were completely stuffed at this point and couldn't eat or drink another thing even if we wanted to. We definitely overindulged, but it was the most wonderful evening of trying new things out and spending time together after a pretty hectic week. We left feeling happy and we couldn't stop talking about the food all the way home. If you ever wanted a restaurant recommendation from me, it would absolutely be Turtle Bay!

To find your nearest Turtle Bay or book a table go to or download the Turtle Bay App for iPhone or GooglePlay.

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. Ooh, that aubergine curry looks delicious! We have a Turtle Bay in Exeter but I haven't been back in a while (it was one of my biggest cravings when I was pregnant) so a trip is definitely on the cards

    1. I love that you craved Turtle Bay while you were pregnant. What a craving to have! You neeeed to go back and check out the new menu x