February might be the shortest month of the year, but the wind and rain seem never-ending, and the glowing windows of the new Turtle Bay restaurant were a welcome sight that promised warmth and shelter. And they did not disappoint; the mismatched interior and reggae music welcomes you like an old friend. We began our evening with a generous introduction to rum tasting, sampling some delicious aged rum, and then swiftly moved to cocktails.
The beach shack bar in the middle of the restaurant is manned by knowledgeable bartenders, whose free-pouring adds to the laid-back atmosphere. For rum connoisseurs there’s an extensive menu of rum from across the West Indies. The real stars of the show however are the rum cocktails. Turtle Bay boasts a selection of original recipes like the refreshing watermelon Marley Mojito, with many drinks also concocted from homemade ingredients, like their fiery ginger beer. Every cocktail we tried was better than the last, and the bartenders were only too happy to change the recipe as per our requests.
For starters we decided not to stray too far into the unknown and opted for the foodie staple, pulled pork. To our surprise, the pork wasn’t drenched in sauce like we’ve all come to expect, it was tender and made with the perfect blend of seasoning, giving it a spicy and aromatic kick. The accompanying mango and squash salad was refreshing and cleansed the pallet, preparing us for the next taste sensation on the menu. We then sampled the Bridgetown Doubles: fried dumplings served with curried chickpeas. Something about these dumplings was instantly comforting and warming. Perhaps the only negative thing we could find was their lack of choice for vegetarians; although the Bridgetown Doubles we had were absolutely to die for, it would have been nice for there to be a few more veggie options which are always in high demand in Leeds. For our mains we ordered Curry Goat and the juicy marinated BBQ Pork Belly, but in hindsight we should have sought guidance on which dishes were particularly spicy, as the Curry Goat was enough to set the mouth on fire, and yet the meat was far too tender to stop eating. Our desserts of Lemon and Lime Tart and the Dark Chocolate Brownie, as recommended by our waiter, were both melt-in-the-mouth, and rich enough to leave us completely satisfied.
The waiters were incredibly friendly, and were polite and adaptable when a dish proved too spicy on the table beside ours, with the customers being instantly offered a replacement dish.
Having no authority to call it authentic, I can still attest to it being delightful and unusual for the Leeds dining scene. The dishes are certainly not for the faint-hearted, so spice-haters approach with caution. But who can resist the tender meat, chilled atmosphere, and cocktails that good, especially when they’re 2-for-1 every day until 7pm and 10pm-1:30am.
Images courtesy of www.tasteofleeds.com and www.turtlebay.co.uk.