Turtle Bay, is the newly opened Caribbean restaurant and bar loudly dominating the corner site of The Scene cinema complex, at the top of Walthamstow’s High Street. Interestingly the owner of Turtle Bay is Ajith Jayawickrema, also the founder of Las Iguanas and investor in Grillstock, the next restaurant due to open on this site. Turtle Bay is a popular chain nationwide but this is their first in East London.
Their opening in early January was a boisterous night; loud DJ’s, delicious cocktails, enthusiastic staff and spicy party food. We went back on an average Friday evening to see if it lives up to the buzz, and more importantly for us, to get a real taste of the food. This is definitely not the place for a quiet romantic night out, but it stirs up holiday fantasies of warm summer nights on a Caribbean island. Helping to paint this picture is a jerk street food shack, colourful shipping containers, loud reggae and decent rum cocktails. The Jamaican Mule – spiced rum, fresh lime & homemade ginger beer was way too drinkable!
The service is eager and friendly once you get past the door staff, and our ‘server for tonight’ was keen to recommend dishes and drinks. There is a busy bar in the centre of the ground floor where cocktails (2 for 1 every night 12-7pm & 10-12pm) and small snack plates called ‘cutters’ are served plus there are numerous tables around the open kitchen. There is more seating upstairs for at least 30 more diners – great for a birthday or event.
The food like the decor is fun, loud and affordable. We went with the recommended Trini Doubles – 2 puffed roti with curried chickpeas, cucumber chutney & coconut and Jerk Pit Ribs – marinated, grilled pork ribs with a sour orange chutney (both £4.95). I think our Trinidadian sister-in-law would approve of the Doubles (her Trini chicken puffs is still one of the most popular recipes on this blog!). The ribs were spicy and soft but the chutney tasted like a gooey marmalade mistake. The hot pepper and jerk sauces on the table were not homemade which is not surprising for a chain but disappointing.
The One Pots – curries and stews with rice & peas were tempting, but we decided on Escovitch Fish – whole baked bream in a sauce of tomatoes, scotch bonnet chilli & peppers, with salad, and swapped the rice ‘n’ peas for sweet potato fries (£12.50) and the Double Dipped jerk rump steak with Caribbean slaw and more sweet potato fries (£14.25).
The fish was well-cooked, moist and fleshy and the fries were a real hit, we’d go back just for them on a cold Friday night! The steak was cooked as requested, medium-rare, but the spice overwhelmed the flavours of the meat and we felt the portion was small for the price.
We loved the puddings especially the spiced chocolate pot with coconut ice cream, and BBQ pineapple with a rum caramel sauce (£4.85). A rum and coffee finished the meal perfectly.
So what’s the verdict? We are predicting that this place will remain jammed as it appeals to a diverse range of people and serves decent, spicy food at accessible prices. From the ‘lights’ menu you could have a burger, slaw and fries for £6.95 and 2 for 1 cocktails so a night out for less than £25. It’s a good addition to the Walthamstow night scene, we’ll be back for more cocktails and those sweet potato fries but we’ll certainly have to book!
Turtle Bay Walthamstow, The Scene, 269 High Street, London E17 7FD
*Disclaimer: we were invited to review Turtle Bay as their guests.