"Meat fairly fell off the bone and was beautifully flavoured, and the dirty mac ’n’ cheese had just the right level of chilli kick to it"
Posing as the beloved holiday restaurant you return to every night, the festoon-bedecked Caribbean chain – with beach shack vibes to rival Hollister – is a clichéd escape from little old England and it really, really works.
This particular night was lashing down with rain but as soon as I ducked under the porch and folded down my umbrella, a buzzing, almost party, atmosphere and throbbing reggae beats from a live band began to shake the British damp from my shoulders.
The smell of jerk seasoning filled the air as we were shown to our table and given menus by a genial waiter, and as expected, I couldn’t even begin to decide which incarnation of Jamaican cuisine I wanted. The new menu is bursting with tantalising dishes like the fabulously-named Five Alarm Curry Chicken with chillies aplenty, Caribbean dumplings, plantain and a fully fledged brunch roster. The varied selection of vegan dishes are the type that you wouldn’t think about being meat- and dairy-free and I’m assured my vegan dining companions ate very well: top marks for a kitchen known for its chicken.
We started with the vegan variety of Mr Fabulous’ traditional hand-crimped patties which were filled with tasty roasted vegetables, the pastry achieving the level of buttery I previously only thought possible of dairy.
I went for crispy chilli squid topped with mango mole, jerk mayo and lime, which was crispy indeed and a perfect balance of salt, fat and sharp juicy sweetness. After the last mouthful of savoury gorgeousness I considered my appetite suitably whet.
Moving onto mains, my fried chicken was everything I hoped it would be – who could go wrong with 24-hour buttermilk-marinated, panko-coated chicken thighs, served with mac ‘n’ cheese and sweet pickled vegetables? Meat fairly fell off the bone and was beautifully flavoured, and the dirty mac ’n’ cheese had just the right level of chilli kick to it. Rum is truly a great pairing for Jamaican food – I’m hoping someone can enlighten me as to why the notes match so well – and my Appleton signature and coke was perfect.
The vegans went for ‘coconut run down’, crunchy vegetables cooked in a smoked paprika and coconut sauce, with coconut rice & peas. This gentle dish was a delicate contrast to my more heavily-spiced choice and still delicious.
Grilled pineapple with coconut ice cream and coconut rum caramel sauce was the dessert I never knew I needed – sweet without being sickly, with a dusting of toffee sugar, it was a fitting finale to a fabulous meal.
Turtle Bay Bristol / 8 Broad Quay, Bristol, BS1 4DA / 0117 929 0209