It’s almost December, and Exeter seems to scream “Christmas!” from ever corner of the city. The checklist of Christmassy elements is already completed: the lights are on, the Christmas market open and almost everyone has replaced their beloved sandals and shorts for warm coats and hats. Personally, I am a real fan of the countdown to Christmas, the whole atmosphere makes me incredibly happy. But what I love the most in this period is the Christmas Menus: those four course meals full of delicacies put a real sparkle in my December lifestyle.
This is why I was extremely excited to receive the opportunity to try the Christmas Menu at Turtle Bay restaurant in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, and it did not disappoint. Turtle Bay is able to unite fairy lights and festive atmosphere with the classic elements of the Caribbean culture, giving its customers a Christmas like never before. A single glance at the interior of the restaurant is enough to understand the combination of festivity and exoticism. The colourful island bar in the middle of the room seems to bring everyone back to their days at the beach, encouraging all of us to let go of the well-known stresses and pressures of this period and enjoy a meal without worry.
However, this unity is ultimately glorified by the choice of food, which is unconventional for the Christmas period. Four carefully thought out courses, transport the diner on a journey of flavour for only £24. Whilst using the typical ingredients of a traditional festive meal, everything has been spiced up to increase the variety of taste, recreating the tropical heats which inspire the menu.
The nibbles given to us on arrival were great for snacking on whilst waiting for our starters – the roasted chickpeas were a particularly memorable dish, a sure favourite from the entire meal.
The same positive reaction was given to the starters, which I consider the highlight of the menu. I don’t even know how to begin describing the duck rolls, as they were so unimaginably delicious I could probably eat them every day for a whole year. The sweetcorn fritters, another starter option, were equally as perfect (and spicy). Vegetables and I are not exactly best friends, but I think this dish may have changed our relationship forever. And if you are a fan of spice like myself, just wait for the main course: it will make your taste buds go crazy. Everything in the dish is designed to add warmth to your day. Instead of a hot cup of tea, the restaurant’s solution for the coldness of winter is its use of a variety of spices. These intense flavours were everywhere, even in the pineapple that accompanied my pork chop!
This could, of course, be a disadvantage to the more korma types amongst us, who may think that the spices drown out core flavours. Yet I found the combination of cinnamon allspice and thyme absolutely delicious. The Caribbean adventure, however, was concluded with a touch of Britishness, which restored the more traditional festivity – a course of brownies and cheesecake to welcome us back home. My whole experience at Turtle Bay can be described as a wonderful adventure of flavours and ingredients. If you are looking for a way to escape the traditional Christmas fare, but you still want to feel somewhat festive, Turtle Bay is screaming out your name. Be prepared to leave the old traditions for a while and be amazed by a different cultural take on Christmas.