Restaurant is a festival of light and flavours

The festival salad with king prawnsThe festival salad with king prawns
The festival salad with king prawns
A festival of light greeted us as we made our way inside Turtle Bay in Preston, a place lovingly decorated to look as Caribbean as the proverbial coconut.

Being a Friday evening, whoever was the DJ for the night had possibly got over-excited as the tunes being blasted out were those you’d normally hear on the dance floor at a cheesy nightclub.

Fortunately, they were kicked off the decks halfway through our meal and much more relaxing Bob Marley-esque music was allowed to complement the surroundings. The food itself even started to taste better once the reggae and calypso sounds began to wash over us.

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Before looking at the menu, we ordered drinks from our friendly waiter, Will, who was our host for the evening. I went for the most thirst-quenching drinks I could find after spending much of the previous hour running around like a madman – I’m training to run a 5k in under 25 minutes, a ridiculous ambition for a food critic I know.

And boy, did those drinks from the ‘Caribbean Softs’ menu hit the spot. The limeade, home-made with freshly squeezed limes and club soda, came in what looked like a used milk bottle, making me feel like it had just been served to me at a beach-side bar. The watermelon crush, fresh watermelon blended until smooth with ice, was like a slushy but with a much cooler vibe. Both came in at a pricy £3.60 each.

Before ordering the food, I took my time checking out the menu that has been relaunched this year after getting customer feedback – it now offers plenty more fish and vegetarian dishes.

We chose three starters: whitebait with fresh jerk and lime mayo (£5.10), jerk pit wings with sour orange chutney (£5.10) and glazed pit baby back pork ribs with sweet mango chilli sauce (£5.50).

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The whitebait were nice and crispy but I couldn’t detect any lime in the lime mayo.

The meat on the slow-cooked ribs came off the bone effortlessly and was covered in the finger-licking-good chunky mango chilli sauce.

The wings were mid-range spicy and well-cooked too although the sour orange chutney could have been boiled down a little more.

It was too watery and just ended up sitting under the wings in the dish rather than coating them.

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For our mains, we went for the festival salad(£7.50)with garlic and chilli king prawns (£3) that was a feast for the eyes. But be warned, the king prawns have to be dismantled yourself, not an easy task for the squeamish. The other main, braised pork belly (£12.50), did not have the crispy pork rind – as was described on the menu – and came with cocunut rice that was a little dry for my tastes. But that was helped by our truly wonderful sides, the watermelon chow and mango chow – both zesty salsas cost £2.80 each.

So is this place the real deal when it comes to Caribbean grub or is it just another chain dumbing down for the masses? Perhaps a little, yes, but I’ve still got a bit of a Caribbean crush for this place.