There’s a massive difference between ‘Caribbean Cuisine’ and ‘Caribbean INSPIRED Cuisine.’ One is authentic, specific and identifiable, the other is a reinvention and as such, is void of fond memories.
Turtle Bay gives me no fond memories.
As a Bajan man who has seen many of the larger islands within the Caribbean, I found the menu to be a step closer to disbelief than an authentic reality.
Granted, the dishes use largely the same ingredients and flavour profiles you hope to find, but I Ieft feeling as if my order was wrong, or that something was kept out of the chef’s pot.
Food with roots in a culture need to spark a memory with people from and those who experienced those cultures and TB left me wanting to forget.
So whilst dishes are recognisable in name, it was a lot like seeing a friend after many years only to find that they have transformed into the very people you block on twitter.
The difference between Turtle Bay’s dishes and Caribbean cooking is like Protestantism and Catholicism. Yes, many parts are similar, but the overall result is completely different.
Now I’m very aware that Turtle Bay has had its song sung from almost every major publication, and some of these positive notes hold true.
Yes, Turtle Bay has set a new way to standardise Caribbean cuisine and it has ~dare I say it~ a tropic and calypso vibe with the fruit and rum combinations on the alcohol menu, but for me that is all those reviews hold true.
But why would these reviews fall so far from expectation? Well understand that Turtle Bay is not run, nor inspired by the kind of person trying to recreate Auntie’s Stew and it’s not catered to the home sick; it’s for people like John Walsh who said in his 4* review;
“And so to the food, which is, I’ve often thought, the only problem with the Caribbean. The food has always been the price you pay for all that beauty.”
An authentic experience this is not, which takes away the element of enjoyment for me. However, I can’t help but draw a parallel to TB and Las Iguanas.
It’s a restaurant not dedicated to the faithful of the culture. It’s for the person who doesn’t have a local jerk, or perhaps has no interest of ever walking into one because they can’t understand the woman behind the counter.
So where does my verdict fall on Turtle Bay? Well, I won’t be touching it again with a bargepole and if you’re hoping this warms you up before your trip to Jamaica this summer- you’ll be left in the cold once you land.
But if you don’t have any links to a Caribbean household, whether than is through a friend, spouse or family, I can see how you could be easily duped.
So know what your date’s tastes are and plan your trip accordingly, but overall I’d say it’s a no from me.