(Sturgill Simpson) – Turtle Bay – Chelmsford
There’s a turtle shaped hole in the human psyche, Terry Pratchett tapped into it with his Discworld series of books; the Discworld in question raiding on the back of four elephants, in turn on the back of a giant space turtle.
This, in turn was a reference to a famous quote – attributed to a conversation with Bertrand Russell where a heckler described the world as a plate on the back of a turtle and that it is indeed ‘turtles all the way down’.
The turtles in today’s review are those of the ‘Turtle Bay’ restaurant in Chelmsford’s new ‘Exchange Quarter’ of the High Chelmer shopping precinct. It’s a new restaurant, part of a chain of over thirty around the country promising ‘Caribbean Social’ cuisine.
I confess, I was planning on lunching at the nearby branch of Byron, but had not considered the implications of half term and after standing outside, unacknowledged, for five minutes in a queue I decided to try elsewhere.
The ‘Exchange Quarter’ has revitalised – at a cost of around £3 million – a frankly shabby corner of High Chelmer and is now home to Turtle Bay, Carluccios, Cote Brasserie and Bourgee.
Turtle Bay’s décor is faux Caribbean shanty, with bright colours, ‘reclaimed’ container panels, light fittings fashioned from colanders, reclaimed wood and reproduction reggae posters. You get the idea.
One wall is a mass of speaker fronts, but I’m not sure if they’re wired up, I think I might have heard them if they were, and I Iive ten miles away.
I arrived and asked for a table for one, and was told by the greeter that there were no tables free in the restaurant area, but I could sit in the bar area.
Okay, but I counted at least eight empty tables, and it was a Monday lunchtime.
A tad disingenuous guys.
So, I took my seat in the bar area and reviewed the menu, as it was lunchtime I skipped the starters, a good selection at £5.10 each. I similarly skipped the comprehensive selection of rums, as I was driving, opting for a pint of draught Red Stripe lager.
For my meal I ordered the ‘Curry Goat’ – one of the £9.70 ‘one pot’ dishes. It’s described as “Marinated goat cooked in curry spices, scotch bonnet, citrus juice & ginger. Served with sweet onion chutney & Caribbean dumplings.”
So, the Goat was a little tough, I’m sure that’s deliberate, I’ve recently had tender brisket that literally fell apart, indeed even the BBC website has a recipe for ‘pulled goat’ so there’s no excuse for tough meat. And yes it tasted like mutton, that’s not great for someone who confesses to hate lamb, but hey, that’s what I ordered.
Having struggled through the meat, the rest of the curry was delicious and well cooked – leaving a pleasant tingle on the lips.
The Caribbean Dumplings were not unpleasant, but nothing to write home about, imagine bready churros and you won’t be far out. Good for mopping up the curry sauce.
Oh.. and the sweet onion chutney was nowhere to be seen, and yes I could have asked for the condiments, but it would appear that they’re not distributed to ‘bar tables’ unless requested.
So overall the food was okay, but the customer experience was lacklustre.
Chelmsford has too many good restaurants fighting for custom.
I might give Turtle Bay another chance, then again, I might not, and that’s a risky attitude for any restaurant.