We parked in the Riverwalk multi storey car park by the new Odeon in Durham. Turtle Bay is just a quick dash from there, right on the riverbank. As soon as you enter Turtle Bay the gloomy weather is forgotten about as you’re met by a riot of colour, music and ‘Caribbean good times.’
There’s some fantastic murals on the walls in Turtle Bay and a very cool little bar upstairs, with outdoor seating. Perfect for sunnier days and evenings overlooking the River Wear and Durham Castle. We were shown to our table and given the ‘breakfast, brunch or lunch’ menu. As it was Happy Hour we were advised that cocktails were buy one get one free.
We quickly took advantage, ordering a passionfruit Martini (£9.20) and a Virgin Passion Punch mocktail (£6). The free drinks are served at the same time. The cocktails tasted really good and went down a little too easily.
Quickly remembering that we did in fact have the kids with us we thought we’d better order some food before they got grouchy.
Turtle Bay kids menu has a range of options but not fish or chicken nuggets and chips which our kids are always after. They settled for a chicken burger and mac ‘n’ cheese instead (£5.70 each), with promises that “it’s like a big chicken nugget in a bun” and “it’s just like your favourite cheesy curly pasta” (Bachelors pasta ‘n’ sauce, girl’s got expensive tastes!)
We tried to order prawns, mac ‘n’ cheese bites and okra from the starters menu which were unfortunately all sold out, but with our waitress’s recommendations we settled on sweetcorn fritters, crispy chilli squid, jerk pit wings and jerk pit ribs (starters are generally £5.80, a few are £1 extra). Here’s a link to Turtle Bay Durham’s menu if you want to check out the full offering.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and the kids had some toys to play with from Poundland round the corner so they were happy. The kids menu does have a colouring in picture on it too to keep the little ones entertained.
After a pleasurable wait sipping cocktails and pretending we were on a sunny beach our starters arrived and what a delightful sight they were!
Highlights were crispy squid (aka calamari) which was excellent, loved the Caribbean tweaks like the spiced coating, mango ‘mole and jerk mayo. The sweetcorn fritters were well seasoned and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Despite both being ‘jerk pit’ flavoured the wings and ribs tasted very different, the ribs were coated in a tasty BBQ sauce and were very tender. The wings could have done with a bit more kick to them, they were a little lacking in the spice department. However every table does have a rack of chilli sauces so you can add your own kick to your food.
The kids meals arrived with our starters, which is good if you have hungry kids. If you’d rather their meals arrived with the mains make sure you request that.
Highlights for the kids were the chips, so much so that we ended up ordering an extra portion as the mac ‘n’ cheese didn’t come with any and Little Miss was jealous. Bigger kids would’ve probably enjoyed the chicken burger but Little Dude was defeated by it after a couple of bites. Little Miss had a few bites of her mac’n’cheese but preferred the chips, no reflection on the quality of the food – I think she just wasn’t in the mood and is quite particular when it comes to her cheesy pasta! Portion sizes were good. Maybe the option of chips instead of salad would be good.
The interior of Turtle Bay Durham is really cool, we’ve eaten in the Newcastle Turtle Bay a few times too and it has a similar vibe but each branch is unique in terms of murals which I like. There were a few people enjoying the Bottomless Brunch which runs every day until 3pm and seems like a good deal if you want to really go for it booze-wise:
- 2 hours of unlimited cocktails, mocktails, Red Stripe and prosecco for £29.50pp*
- Includes any brunch dish, burger or roti
For the mains we went for a mix of brunch and lunch dishes – Curry Goat Hash (£12), Chicken Buddha Bowl (£11.30) and Hunny Bunny Yardbird (£8).
The curry had very tender meat, a good balance of flavour and wasn’t too spicy despite having scotch bonnet chillis on top of it. The pickled veg on top added a nice mix of flavours. The Buddha bowl is a great healthy option with a rainbow of veggies, rice and chicken on the side to add on top. I enjoyed the mix of pickled and raw salad, guac and think it could do with similar sauce on top to the crispy squid – but adding a bit of sauce from the table had the desired effect. Chicken was a little dry, I wished I’d gone for Haloumi but will try that next time.
The Honey Bunny Yardbird was my favourite. A stack of soft pancake-like ‘roti’ is topped with a piece of fried chicken, maple syrup and cream cheese with watermelon on the side, which my kids pinched most of. In the menu it says it comes with hot sauce but there wasn’t any on mine. I really enjoyed this dish, it was very satisfying and great for a brunch treat.
We shared the only two desserts on the menu – Banana Toffee Cheesecake and Chilli Chocolate Brownie (£4 each). You can add a scoop of ice cream for £1 and I would recommend doing that for the brownie. The cheesecake was absolutely delicious – perfect ratios and flavours, not too banana-centric and just completely moreish. The brownie however was baked a bit too long so it wasn’t gooey at all which is how a brownie should be if you ask me. The chilli added a bit of interest but wasn’t appreciated by Little Dude when he sneaked a bite! Little Miss had a scoop of chocolate icecream (£1) which she enjoyed. Kids can also have a free slice of watermelon but neither wanted one as they’d already pinched most of mine. I also had an espresso which was good and rounded off the meal nicely.
We left feeling happy and satisfied after a long lunch at Turtle Bay Durham. Service was very friendly if a little on the slow side when clearing plates etc, but you have to get into the swing of the slow, island life in this place and forget about rushing around. We had a great time and will definitely be back – I fancy the Bottomless Brunch with friends next time!
We were provided with a complimentary meal for the purposes of this review, however as always the opinions expressed in this article are honest and true to experience.