Nick Buglione makes a trip to Turtle Bay a family affair
I used to sympathise with mums and dads taking the kids out to eat. Total chaos and mass confusion meets barely suppressed stress and borderline hysteria. Now I have become them.
Restaurant choices revolve around “who does good baby chairs?” (Wagamama, Pizza Express), “do the kids eat free?” (Bodeans) and is it the kind of place that “can cope” (any local Italian trattoria or pizzeria) with infantile disruptions. If the food is OK along the way, Brucie bonus.
So the massed ranks of the Buglione family hit the high road for some totally tropical tastes. The pit stop is Turtle Bay, who have sussed that family-friendly does them no harm whatsoever. Little Turtles menu, colouring in books, non-alcoholic cocktails (and a happy hour so parents can double-down medicate). A smooth, relatively entry-level intro to Caribbean-lite cuisine with a reggae reggae soundtrack.
So we kick off with an almost embarrassingly big platter of cocktails. Think authentic meets day-glo showiness. Wray Sour, overproof rum, blue curacao and lime, Beachcombers Zombie, rum combos, absinthe, grenadine, lemon and pineapple and One Love, Passion fruit liqueur, dark rum, passion fruit and coconut syrup. Sky Juice, a slush-puppie of pomegranate, pineapple, orange and lemon juices and Fizzy Mango smoothies for the kids.
Wrapped around our starter, an all-dive-in-and-get-your-fingers-dirty Just Jerk platter with jerk wings, glazed pork ribs, beef patty, jerk chicken flatbread and sweet corn fritters. Demolished like locusts descending on a field of ripe crops. And kind of indulgent fun watching childhood bravado meet some of the hot sauces. That’s how they learn right?
Turtle Bay is an almost bewildering array of Jerk pit, BBQ, spicy One-Pots, sharing platters, salads, Carib-sides and hot breads. In a slickly assembled shanty-town cantina themed Montego mish-mash dining room.
Mrs B went for the Curry Prawn hot pot, slowly simmered king prawns, mango, sweet potatoes, spices, rice and flatbread. I stayed jerky with sirloin and coconut callaloo spiced fries and plantain. Kids plundered chicken flatbreads and burgers from the Little Turtles menu.
And it was all fine. The seafood one-pot was a nicely spiced autumn warmer, my steak came right (medium rare) and was pleasantly jerky, the platter was a nice intro to everything and the kids happily had their fill. Cocktails took the edge off family planning challenges and dad enjoyed pointing out who was coming out of the speakers.
It might be a slightly manufactured soul but Turtle Bay knocks the paltry soul-less experience at places like Giraffe into the long grass and I have fed a family of five without breaking the bank or eating overpriced slop just ’cos they don’t hate children (almost anywhere in the West End or a lot of the South Bank).
Having spent this very same day surviving the obscenely overpriced disgraceful “catering” at LegoLand, Turtle Bay is an almost Zen-like kids dining experience where the adults can have a restaurant ambition beyond basic survival. And they do “kids eat free” in the school hols.
382 Brixton Road, SW9 7AW | 020 7737 2264 | turtlebay.co.uk | @turtlebayuk