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Turtle Bay Restaurant Review Cardiff

Being a lover of independant’s it’s very rare I go to a chain restaurant these days let alone make a repeat visit within 6 months.

The restaurant in question is Turtle Bay, a Carribean themed restaurant located on St Mary Street next door to Kongs. If spice isn’t your thing you might want to skip this place as there are plenty of chilli’s of all varieties especially in the revered Carribean staple Jerk seasoning that pops up on many of the mains and sides with bottles to hand to smother some more onto the plate if you’ve not got enough heat to content with.

Turtle Bay is also a popular retreat for wetting the whistle as they are known for their cocktail happy hours offering 2 for 1 from open till 7pm then 10pm till close.

The Drinks

I’ve popped in for a cocktail a few times of late to take advantage of the 2 for 1 drinks offer. As i’ve got older and after being a recent gin convert I find most cocktails very sweet and remind me of 18-30 holiday in Magaluf compared to the subtle neutral flavours of gin.

There’s a good selection of cocktails in the offer to be had but you do need to choose two of the same. My first choice happened to be a Carribean take on the classic long island iced tea.

Not a bad choice as the cola substitutes the overly sweet mixers of most cocktails and had a decent kick to it compared to some other bars offering 2 for 1. I usually find the 2 for 1 cocktails at most places just means you get the same amount of alcohol just divided into two glasses so really you’re just getting more mixer. So instead of having a double shot in one for say £7 you get two cocktails for £7 but you get a single in each topped up with sickly pre packaged mixers.

After chatting to the barman and telling him we popped over to see what the place was about after being served watered down 2 for 1 cocktails nearby earlier in the evening.

Secret Cocktail Menu

I was glad to hear that they had a secret cocktail list not on the main menu and this happened to include gin martinis.

You get a choice of vodka or gin Martini and also get to choose Tanquery I think it was or Sipsmith, which of course I opted for the more superior Sipsmith option. Unfortunately they didn’t have any olives or lemon rind to hand to make a dirty martini or just a bit of citrus touch as I would normally use. They did have lime but I don’t like lime in my Gin and I couldn’t complain for that price.

Gin Martini at Turtle Bay Cardiff

The measures were spot on with the Martini too with a double helping of Sipsmith Gin, shot of Noily Prat Vermouth. So for around £7 you get two double decent quality gin watered down with fortified wine, what’s not to like but it’s not for the faint hearted. I let a few of my mates sample a sip and all but one winced in horrified fashion to the strength of the drink. I think they just need more practice.

The Food

As we’ve dined her twice i’ll mention the plates ordered on both occasions.

Starters and nibbles

First choice whenever we eat out is calamari or squid in whatever form they specialise in if it’s on the menu. Here they offered crispy chilli squid, which was right up both our street as we both love a bit of heat with the squid.

crispy chilli squid at Turtle Bay Cardiff

Served as described, spicy and crispy in it’s panko breadcrumb crust with a cooling citrus blast from the mango, lime and corriander mayo.

Second visit we fancied a few different bits from the starter menu so opted for the Just Jerked sharing platter . This included pit jerked chicken wings, glazed pork ribs, jerked beef riblets, sweetcorn fritters, spiced popcorn, salad and something i’d been craving since passing a random Carribean hut on the way back from Cardiff Bay Wetlands reserve the weekend before a Jamaican beef patty.

Jerk sharing platter at Turtle Bay Cardiff

This is basically like a Jamaican version of Wahaca in my eyes with each course oozing with flavour with a good punch of heat and spice from every bite, just how I like. I couldn’t fault any of the platter, you can’t go wrong with spicy sticky wings, the meat just fell off the pork ribs with a rich, spicy glaze on the beef ribs. The popcorn didn’t really do much for me mind and was just there to fill the try a bit I think.

Mains

First visit we ordered the pork ribs with sweet potato fries. Decent sized tender ribs with a slight spice, topped with chutney paired with something i’ve failed to ever create at home a really nice crispy sweet potato fry topped with cheese and spicy jerk sauce.

Jerk ribs with sweet potato fries at Turtle Bay Cardiff

We both loved the goat curry so much we opted to have another plate on the second visit. Slowly braised and very tender morsels of goat in a thick, spicy curry served with coconut rice and peas, chutney and a portion of dumplings. The rice made a lovely change with it’s subtle fragrance compared to somewhat bland offering of plain white rice at some restaurants.

 

Fancying a one pot wonder too my eyes hovered over the Bajan beef cheeks. The menu read “Six hour slowly simmered beef cheeks marinated in Caribbean spice, okra, potato, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander & toasted coconut.” I mean come on, how could you turn your nose up to that?

Again I’ve not had a piece of meat that wasn’t tender and disintegrating on contact with my tongue at Turtle Bay yet and this was still the case here. A good bit of heat yet nothing too crazy warmed my sinuses with a little trickle of a runny nose is always a good sign in my eyes. The plate also came with steamed rice and roti flatbread to aid my favourite past time…making a sandwich out of absolutely anything on my plate.

 

Verdict

I would definitely recommend Turtle Bay for food and a cocktail if you’re going for the Gin Martini on the secret cocktail menu although it’s a shame they don’t have any olives or lemon to garnish it.

All the food i’ve tried so far was packed full of flavour and just the right amount of spice for me anyway. The vibe is very relaxed and always see big groups of people for what must be birthday’s and work outings in town. The bartenders are all very friendly and happy to help you pick a drink or food item. I don’t actually think i’ve ever seen bartenders so happy behind the bar anywhere like there saying that.

Starters are around £5 and mains from about £10 coupled with some 2 for 1 cocktails it’s a recipe for a good night with friends, family or work colleagues for an informal shindig.

I’m ashamed to say i’ve been there for food twice and still not tried the dessert so sadly I can’t comment but I might just have a side of dessert with my next cocktail visit to see if i’ve been missing out.

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The Best Gin Martini Cocktail in Rome – Stravinskij Bar

Having tried the best Pizza in Rome and wandering around St Peter’s Basillica with a blistered and beetroot red scalp for a while with no hope of beating the qeueues into the Vatican before close there was only one thing left to do…rehydrate with a cocktail of course!

A quick scout online for the best places for a gin in Rome brought back some good results with a few hidden bars and speakeasy places coming out on top such as Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, Club Derriere and Spirito but none of them opened till around 10pm and it was just pushing 4pm.

One other place that kept coming up was the Stravinskij Bar at the 5* Rocco Forte Hotel de Russie. Aparently they do the best Martini in town and seeing that that’s my tipple of choice we were sold.

Roads were basically at a standstill at this time around the Vatican and google maps reconed it would only take an extra 2 minutes to walk the 1.3 miles from our location so thought this would be a good time to burn off the 3 million calories I’d consumed in the past 48 hours and seeing there was treasure at the finish line we set out on foot armed with my ever frustrating google maps on my phone.

The Bar

We arrived at the hotel after more than a handful of pit stops to browse at bloody crockery as usual. We walked through reception and headed to the back of the hotel where we guessed the bar might be. There were garden chairs and sofas nestled amongst heaters and unopened parisolls on a patio area in a courtyard between the hotel buildings but thought it looked a bit low key considering the reviews we had heard online.

I wandered over to one of the waiters to ask where the bar is and he said you’re in it to my slight dissapointment as we could see terraces overlooking the courtyard embellished in sunlight. Apparently that was the restaurant but the view looked so much better than the patio courtyard below and come on I’m from Wales who knowns when i’m going to actually see the sun again this year.

I wish i’d just ordered a plate of chips looking back now to sit up there with a dirnk but I was parched and needed to rest my little trotters. We pondered over the drinks menu whilst the waitress tempted us with an array of complimentary snacks from mixed olives, a variety of crisps and honey baked almonds. These got me pining for my first Martini of the trip with the tray loaded full of salty favourites and there were more concoctions on the menu than i’ve ever seen.

The Drinks

After some deliberating I opted for the Gold Bond Martini with both gin and vodka with a glimmering display of gold flakes swirling round in the martini glass. Pointing out the obvious it was a potent mix of alcohol, mixed with alcohol watered down with yet more slightly weaker alcohol pimped up with a healthy portion of gold flakes to jazz it up and lemon twist for extra zing.

There were a few others I was torn between but this was a good choice. It was a good job were were just sampling the one (at 22 euros a pop) we just thought we would see what the bar was like but I wouldn’t be steady on my feet after many that’s for sure.

Mwsh opted for a prosecco based fruity number although not of the martini variety. That was ok, had a slight Pimm’s feel to me and at that price I wanted a that hit of alcohol to headbut me in the face but it was a bit to reserved for my liking.

The Verdict

After being a bit disheartened at first not having a seat up on the sun laced terraces I did enjoy the relaxing ambience of the terrace down below (after about 15 minutes of some devil child bawling uncontrollably till the Russain looking child bride and Oil Oliagarch handed over said child to the stone faced nanny who soon got it to sleep).

It was a far cry from the tidal wave of tourists within the Vatican, noisy car and motobikes weaving in and out of traffic and the relentless assault of sales pitches from street reps trying to sell you JUMP THE QEUEUE tickets for the Sistine Chapel.

Ok so 22 euros a pop for cocktails isn’t cheap but this was a 5* hotel and one of the best in Rome at that plus the snacks we got probably would of cost us around 15 euros in any other bar no doubt. If we weren’t so pushed for time and was celebrating a birthday or something I’d definitely stayed to tick off a few more of the Martini’s on the list and would encourage anyone to swing by if you’re in Rome even if it’s just for one.

Gin Sake Martini cocktail – sakitini

Ok so I’ve been a late adopter of the classic cocktail the Martini since sampling a bloody filthy one at Lab22 in Cardiff just before Christmas. Not being a fan of Gin till about a year ago and the idea of putting something salty in my drink never really appealed to me before as I thought it wouldn’t be too far away from dunking a packet of ready salted crisps in your drink.

Who would want those 45 organically farmed botanicals being sacrificed by a salty snack? Then coming to think about it a packet of crips, nuts or olives always taste better with a beverage of the alcoholic range hence why they’re called bar snacks in the first place!

So for those who don’t know what a Martini is it’s one of the most simple cocktails known to man with a shot or two of alcohol watered down with a shot or two of more alcohol with a garnish of your choice plonked in the middle of the glass. Oh and it’s James Bond’s tipple of choice and he’s a more of a British icon than the Queen.

So there’s a choice of base alcohol in the Martini you can either go for Gin or Vodka and then it’s paired with a measure of vermouth. I can’t stomach vodka since my early 20’s and abusing the vodka red bulls as a student so I’m on team Gin Martini. You can go dry, which tips the balance more towards the Gin in terms of ratio or wet means more vermouth in your glass. Gin Martini is usually served with an olive or two or you can opt for a twist of lemon. If you want it dirty then a drop of olive brine is added to the mix or if you want it filthy a good glug of the stuff.

The good thing about a Martini is you’re never going to get short changed for your measurements here as most cocktail bars fill the glass to the brim with ice leaving you with a watered down heap of shitty fruit and smallest drop of alcohol. The martini comes straight up, no on the rocks after being shaken or stirred with ice to get a crisp temperature. What I can only describe as to the taste of a good Martini is very clean almost like you’ve just had a sip of minty mouthwash but it’s so morish.

Anyway I fancied making a Martini at home to try and use up some of the recent Gin purchases over Christmas and on recommendation by the very helpful guys at Lab22 I needed a good vermouth to pair with my gin. The vermouth of choice at Lab22 is Noilly Prat but even trying good ole Wally’s deli in town I couldn’t find any anywhere in Cardiff.

I headed home defeated with blisters bubbling at the back of my feet from my new daps from mother dearest for Christmas. After deciding on what I was going to cook for the evening and tipping towards something chinese I remembered I had some Sake in the cupboard. Sake being a fermented rice wine i thought I wonder how much different this would be to vermouth a fermented wine so thought there’s only one way to find out so went about making a Sakitini a sake inspired martini.

Sake Martini cocktail recipe – Sakitini

3 x 25ml Gin – I used Portobello Road as it’s a great all rounder

1 x 25ml Sake

1 twist of lemon

Instructions

Two make two put 3 x double shots of gin and 1 x double shot of sake in a large tumbler with thick blocks of ice and stir for a good 30 seconds.

Take a potato peeler and peel a slice of lemon, cut in half length ways, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils and drop one into each glass and top divide the liquid between the two glasses.