There’s a new restaurant open in town, and our resident culture vulture, BELLA BARTOCK, slipped on her sling-backs for an entertaining night built around rum, reggae and jerk
My first observation on entering this new restaurant in the heart of Croydon town centre was what a blessed relief it was to be able to dine out and not have to keep on one’s overcoat against the cold. At my stage of life, I don’t mind telling you, the risk of a chill to one’s kidneys is not worth thinking about.Here we were, able to sit on real chairs, with a real table, not something that appeared to be made out of railway sleepers, with proper cutlery and with efficient and friendly staff waiting at the tables. There was none of this nonsense of people in hi-viz jackets coming along and sweeping away paper plates as if they work for Veolia, as I am told is the case in one recently opened venue.
And even at my age, you can still learn something new. I’d arrived a little before 7pm, my companion a few minutes later. The nice young man in the busy bar area asked whether we would like something he appeared to call “Toofurwun”. I was puzzled at first, thinking this was some latter day homage to the late, lamented Ted Rogers – who, like Croydon’s own Stuart Collins, also used to have a dusty bin as a sidekick.
But when someone else mentioned Happy Hour, I soon twigged.
Apparently, this is something they do at Turtle Bay all day and every day up to 7pm, and then again after 10pm, when their cocktails are priced at a more reasonable two for £7.05, which is almost affordable on a pension.
So the chances are I shall be returning before long, when I next fancy a change from the cheap G&Ts and cheaper company at the South Croydon Conservative Club.To be perfectly honest with you, I found Turtle Bay’s cocktail menu a little bewildering – such choice, darling! But no Long Slow Screw On A Beach, which is always a favourite of mine, and when I asked, after prompting from a very nice PR lady, for the Croydon special, a “Kate Moss”, I got a bit of a bemused look from the otherwise helpful young man.
My friend had something far more sophisticated, with a Jamaican Mule.
Instead, I had something they called a Jumbled Julep, which was pleasant enough, and full of fruit, so it was a bit like having your afters before you’d ordered your starters.
Now, I am well acquainted with the Moscow variety of this cocktail, from my many pleasant after-theatre evenings at Harry’s Bar or the Savoy, with Noel, Larry or Jeremy (Brett, before you jump to any wrong conclusions), but this version, substituting rum for the usual vodka with the lime juice and ginger beer, was very… engaging.
It was not long before we spotted a couple of old friends on the other side of the bar. A little chat, another round of drinks or two, and before we knew it, it was nearly time for the post-10pm Toofurwuns.
But by now I needed food, so we asked to be shown to a table.
A free one was hard to find – the place had been full for hours, with a good, mixed crowd, and some families with young children, all relaxing in the tastefully and colourfully decorated venue, which was once Tiger, Tiger, a place where no one under the age of 21 was supposed to be allowed, nor anyone over 30 would dare go.Like the cocktail menu, the choice is hugely tempting and, therefore, a little disappointing: there was too much that we might have liked to try, and which would have to wait for another time. That applies to the selection of starters – we had a bara roti, which was tasty and left you wanting more, and whitebait with a coriander and lime mayo which lifted an often routine dish into a delicious appetiser.
Unlike other restaurants nearby in the Grants centre, Turtle Bay is not a one-trick pony – or chicken – since there’s plenty of food options, including Caribbean stews served with rice and peas such as the goat or fish curries, and the double dipped steak, which was wonderfully cooked on the grill.
And then there is the jerk chicken which is served up after a 24-hour marinade, and which was as moist and delicious as anything I can remember having in a very long time.
But beware – you need to bring your appetite: even just the half a chicken was a formidable portion.
And through all this, we were able to have a pleasant conversation while enjoying background music that was never too loud or intrusive, another strong plus for the managers of this stylish and a very welcome addition to what my young friend Mario likes to call the Croydon “night scene”. A real Caribbean dream.
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