Call me a snob but I don’t usually “do” chains. I’ve been to Nando’s once and TGI’s but have never stepped foot inside a Frankie & Benny’s, Bella Italia or Chiquito and I probably wouldn’t have gone to the newly opened Turtle Bay in Manchester had I not just written my post on where to find “The Best Jerk Chicken in Manchester”.
After turning down an invitation to rub shoulders with the “VIPs” at the official launch on the eve of their opening (Shane Ward AND his sisters were there!), I went along on their opening day, which was more of a coincidence than a plan.
It being the first day, I’m not going to mention service, as it wouldn’t be a true reflection. Staff had obviously all been newly trained and there was a large team of managers in, pulling strings – as always with new places, true colours start to show after a few months once there has been some staff turnover.
Décor-wise I was really impressed… I was expecting it to be way tackier than it actually was. Some of the detailing really impressed, most notably the shipping container seating, speaker decked bar area and Castrol GTX light fittings. The reggae tunes add to the atmos too.
Naturally, I ordered the Jerk Chicken – 12 spice & herb jerk marinade and Grilled, Sour Orange Chutney, Caribbean Slaw and Rice ‘n’ Peas. Unlike a few of the better places around Manchester, the chicken here is not cooked from scratch on the BBQ but finished off with just a lick of flame.
However, I still found it really quite good. The jerk had a spicy kick to it; something I didn’t expect from a chain. I assumed they’d play it safe with a mild chicken and then offer the spicy sauce on the side. (The sauces that were available separately were the shop bought ones from the likes of Encona and Grace, which I have no problems with.)
Problems however were found with the Fried Dumplings, Sweet Plantain and Sweet Potato Fries – I found the dumplings far too chewy, the ‘sweet’ plantain overly sweet and the fries cold and soggy; probably not helped by the metal cup they were served in.
I also had the Street Burger – which came with jerk glaze, grilled bun, baby gem, tomato, onion and Caribbean slaw. To my mind, compared to other burgers available in the city this was pretty poor (although only £6.95) – which can be a problem of chains if they are not prepared to adjust their menus to suit / live up to expectations and tastes of the local market.
One more ‘pro’ was the refreshingly fiery Homemade Ginger Beer – another ‘con’, £4.95 for the Salt Fish Pattie, which was a little too limp and lifeless for my taste.
I know a couple of people who have been and had similar experiences. In the meantime, I’d be happy to go back again for the jerk and will be keeping my ear to the ground re the rest of the menu.