Celebrate Veganuary With Turtle Bay*

5 Jan 2020

In years gone by, the word 'vegan' has had the power to make many people recoil, almost in horror at the thought of ever cutting out meat, dairy and other animal products from their lives. But thanks to the horrible reality that is climate change, veganism has become a rising phenomenon that seemingly can't be stopped!

Now, as someone who isn't a vegan, I'm definitely not here to preach the ways of going plant-based, but after watching the hugely popular Game Changers documentary, I had a massive awakening about the amount of animal products that I consume. Honestly, if you've ever thought about altering your diet, you absolutely need to check out the doc, but after having my eyes opened to what animal products were doing to my body, I set myself the goal of introducing more vegan meals and alternatives into my life. And that's exactly why I thought I'd try to get involved with Veganuary as much as possible this year!

Veganuary is a trend that's taken the world by storm over the past couple of years, as it's designed to help introduce people to a vegan lifestyle throughout the month of January. It's a pretty tasty recipe for success, if you ask me! However, my problem is knowing where to start. After a life of having meat with almost every meal and feeling like I can't quite make it if I don't eat cheese, trying to switch to a vegan diet overnight is quite a challenge. So when Turtle Bay invited me along to try their vegan options out for Veganuary, I absolutely jumped at the chance!

When I think of Caribbean food, I think of jerk chicken and shedloads of barbecue, so to find out that Turtle Bay now offers more vegan options than most high street restaurants was a huge surprise! In fact, they offer a total of 28 dishes across their menus, including breakfast, lunch, evening - even desserts. There's also over 30 vegan cocktails and mocktails (which are especially good if you're partaking in Dry January too), and they're extra lovely to indulge in during the famous Turtle Bay happy hour. 2 for 1 from 12-7PM and then again after 10PM (and after 9:30PM Sunday – Thursdays), if you didn't know!
Luckily for me, my local Turtle Bay is just around the corner, so Alex and I were able to get there nice and early for our time slot - and just before the happy hour ended. We quickly scoured the cocktail menu, noticing that there was a huge number of choices for vegans, but ultimately ended up asking our lovely server, Molly, for her recommendations.

As a gin fan herself, she instantly recommended I give the Jumbled Julep* a try. This was a sweet and fruity mix of white rum, strawberry, passion fruit, apple juice and fresh mint with a dash of either gin or vodka. It's the perfect cocktail if you want something that's fresh and tastes kind of exactly how summer would be flavoured if you squished it into a juicer. Alex, the chauffeur, went for a mocktail, and under Molly's recommendation, he opted for the Reggae Sunsplash*, which was just as lovely as it sounds. With a beautiful blend of raspberry, coconut syrup and grapefruit crush, this was another sweet choice that went down a total treat.
As far as food is concerned, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was at least one option within each of the main menu sections. From curry to rotis and burgers to jerk pit barbecue, there was something that is sure to tantalise everyone's tastebuds. It's also worth noting that there are tons of vegan sides, so you can pair up your main with a whole host of extras, following along with the Turtle Bay side plates scheme. If you want to make a full vegan meal of it, there are also starter options too!

After tweeting out that we were taking a trip to the bay, the Turtle Bay team replied, recommending I give the Vegan Motherclucker*a go, so I already knew that this was my order, along with a side of sweet potato fries*. Being a total beginner at vegan food, I was surprised when the burger was brought to the table and it looked exactly like a regular breadcrumbed chicken burger! This Quorn and veg mix chicken-style patty is cooked up in Jamaican spices and topped with smashed avocado, wild rocket, pink onions, jerk mayo and side of tangy barbecue sauce.

I've tried Quorn before and not been a massive fan, thanks to the texture, but this burger was absolutely phenomenal. If you didn't know that it was vegan, you would honestly think that it was chicken. From the flavour to the texture, this was the most convincing veggie burger that I think I've ever had. The spices that it was infused with paired so beautifully with the smashed avocado and the ever so slightly spicy jerk mayo. With the addition of the pink onions, this was a colourful and filling meal that I would quite happily have again. And those sweet potato fries - I'm sure I've professed my love for Turtle Bay sweet potato fries on here before, but if not... I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Turtle Bay sweet potato fries.
Alex had also been tempted by the burger, but we're all about choosing different dishes so that we can try each others out. Asking Molly again for her recommendation, he was swayed into choosing the Coconut Run Down soul food bowl* and a side of avocado fries*. When it arrived to the table, it was quite clear that this dish was going to be the real star of the show. It was a bowl of pure colour and sunshine!

In the bowl, you're presented with crunchy vegetables that are cooked up in a smoked paprika and coconut sauce, with a side of coconut rice and peas. Just look at that image above! It was a beautiful explosion of vibrancy, which could only mean that the flavours were there to match. The vegetables and sauce were packed with heat, which is definitely something to watch out for if you're terrified of spice, like I am. However, this spice was cooled slightly by the coconut rice and pea mix. With the addition of the pink onions and extra crunchy vegetables, this was a gorgeously textured option and Alex struggled to finish the whole bowl - it was that filling.

The avocado fries* were an unusual one. Neither of us really knew what to expect from them - were they going to be crisp? Were they going to be seasoned in anyway? We were surprised to find that they still had that soft avocado texture and a lightly fried exterior. We both think that if you want to order these fries, you'll want something to dip them in, otherwise they could come across as quite plain. With the barbecue sauce that came with my burger, they were lovely! They're definitely one to try if you're feeling adventurous.
Of course, we couldn't sample the menu without trying out a dessert. It wouldn't be a trip out with The Northernist unless you've had some sort of sweet treat! We chose to share a chilli chocolate brownie with a side of dark chocolate ice cream*, which I was so excited about, being the chocoholic that I am. I was also really curious about the dark chocolate ice cream, which was also vegan, of course, but I haven't tried a lot of vegan ice creams out!

As you can see above, the brownie slice was super dense and rich, and topped off with chilli seeds, so it was clear that it was going to have a bit of a kick to it - I wasn't quite prepared for how much of a kick, though! Like I mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of spice, but this was different. It paired perfectly with the gooey brownie and almost amplified the chocolate flavour. It was absolutely gorgeous and it makes me desperately want to get in the kitchen and bake some replicas! As for the ice cream, I was floored by how scrumptious it was. The mix of soya and cocoa worked so perfectly to produce a texture that was exactly like standard dairy ice cream. I was absolutely head over heels for it!

We both came away from the restaurant feeling totally stuffed and more than happy with the meal that we'd had. Neither of us felt that there was a lack of meat, which is something that I struggle with, like I mentioned. It was incredible to think that everything we'd eaten was totally plant-based - a chicken burger and ice cream... crazy! It definitely showed both of us that there were plenty of options available for vegan diets and inspired us further in our attempt to try out a more plant-based diet.

If you're interested in checking out Turtle Bay's vegan options, it's so easy to view their menu and filter by vegan! Or head to your local restaurant and take a peek at the menu in person.

Turtle Bay Middlesbrough (32 Corporation Road, TS1 2RX) is open Sunday - Wednesday from 10AM - 11:30PM, and Thursday - Saturday from 10AM - 1:30AM. For more information, click here.

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

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