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When we first found out that we were going to be reviewing Turtle Bay, my first thought was how happy Husband would be as he’s a HUGE fan of Caribbean food. My second thought was “will the kids cope with the spice?”. It has to be said, my kids aren’t total chilli wusses, BB has been asking for sriracha on her food since she was about 2 and Sausage copes with things like hot wings, so I figured we’d just see how they fared – besides, there was a kids menu to choose from.
The Turtle Bay we visited was in Chelmsford, just outside the High Chelmer Shopping Centre and in a nice location with an outdoor seating area. The first thing you notice about Turtle Bay is just how vibrant and beautifully styled the whole place is. From the bright colours that scream Jamaica to the wall of guitar amps and the reggae playing in the background, the restaurant felt themed in a way that managed to avoid the pantomime-y feel of other themed restaurants.
We did the usual ‘sit down, peruse the menu, give our drinks order’ and were informed that cocktails were currently 2 for 1, so mine and Sausage’s virgin cocktail orders meant we’d be brought two drinks each – quite a bonus and one to remember next time we’re out for dinner and I’m not driving!
While we were waiting for our food, we were given colouring stuff for the girls, but also a Connect4 game, which made the time between ordering our food and it arriving pass really quickly. Not only did we love the fact that the kids were catered for, we loved the implication that this wasn’t a place where kids had to be seen and not heard, that they were allowed to have fun and be kids.
BB ate from the kids menu, and her main arrived at the same time as our starters, which worked well as she’s a SLOOOOW eater! Serving it this way meant that by the time we’d eaten our starter and mains, she was just about finished too.
Caribbean Flavour at Turtle Bay
In terms of the food, here’s what we ordered:
I’m not going to bore you with a description of every single morsel of food that we ate (ALTHOUGH, the prawns I had for my starter were TO DIE FOR, and I said to husband that I could quite happily have eaten it ten times over), but every single one of us loved all of our dishes. The jerk chicken and ribs were SO beautifully seasoned and spiced, not so much that it blew your head off, but just enough to make you feel warm down to your flip flops. Husband’s curry goat and my ribs were so tender, the meat melted in your mouth and all of the desserts were perfect and sweet, after such a savoury meal.
The meal was, in fact, such a resounding success, that the whole family declared it the best place we’ve ever reviewed, and we’ve been to a LOT of restaurants in the last eight years! Unless you’ve got kids who are exceptionally fussy with what they eat, please don’t think you can’t eat as a family at Turtle Bay because there are plenty of dishes which cater for those with more delicate taste buds, and everyone else gets to enjoy the deep flavour of Jerk wonderfulness!
It would also be an amazing place for dinner and drinks with friends (not least of all because the cocktails are 2-for-1!), and the decor and atmosphere would really lend itself to relaxation and socialising. All in all (for three starters, three mains, a kids meal, four desserts, four virgin cocktails, two pints of Red Stripe and a soft drink) our meal would have cost £82.60, which I think is excellent value.
As we were leaving, the manager mentioned to us that a new Turtle Bay is going to be opening in Southend, which is even closer to us, and all I can say is, I really hope he’s correct!
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This summer holiday has been a bit of a culinary eye-opener for us in the Mum’s the Word house as we’ve been reviewing different restaurants each week and this week’s meal was at Giraffe. Giraffe’s strapline is “Freshly cooked food for everyone served to the sound of great music. Guaranteed to make you feel good!” so we took the girls and MIL with us again to get a good overview of how well they cater for all ages.
Technically, Lakeside is our closest Giraffe but we opted for Chelmsford for a bit of a change of scenery and I’m glad we did. It’s right in the middle of the high street and super easy to find, plus it’s right by the river which was lovely on a sunny day. In fact, it would be a really nice location for an early evening drink and dinner, so next time we go I think I’ll leave the kids at home and just go with Husband.
On the way there, Sausage (who’s recently got her first mobile phone and uses ANY opportunity for a good Google-up!) decided to read the menu to MIL to give her an idea of what she could choose and I think it made MIL a little wary, given that she prefers slightly plainer food and Giraffe’s menu is full of things with exotic sounding ingredients. However, once we got there and she had a chance to read the menu for herself, I think she realised that there were plenty of things she liked.
The kids menu doesn’t have starters but the adults ordered starters and we all ended up sharing, which is something we do anyway as we’re a bit like a wolf-pack, letting each other tuck into our grub. MIL had a garlic flatbread, Husband the chicken gyoza with sweet chilli dipping sauce and I had the Tuscan lamb meatballs.
The girls took a great liking to MILs flatbread; luckily it was HUGE so we all had a bit and there was still some left at the end! It was really nice, soft in places, crunchy in places, just garlicky enough without being overpowering. My meatballs were truly delicious, lightly spiced lamb (which you’d expect to be fatty but really wasn’t) in a rich tomato sauce which was almost like a stew. Serving it with a warm tortilla was perfect as it allowed me to mop up all the sauce afterwards! Husband’s gyoza were the real star of the starters though; the dumplings were lightly fried, so they were just crispy but still soft in the middle and the nouc cham sweet chilli sauce was flavourful and sticky, just how it should be. Husband and I didn’t find it spicy but MIL found it a little hot for her taste, so if you’re not a fan of any sort of heat they might be one to avoid.
For our mains, the girls chose from the kids menu with Sausage opting for a cheese and tomato quesadilla while BB went for a chicken wrap. Husband had the jerk ribs and sweet potato fries, MIL had the chicken Milanese and I had a chilli beef burrito.
One thing I liked about the kids menu is that it actually offered some really diverse dishes. Sure, there are burgers and fish fingers on offer but there are also noodle bowls, grilled salmon and salads. I think we’re long past the era where kids are served bland, uninteresting food while the adults tuck into a culinary delight so it was refreshing to see some nice options for kids. Sausage really enjoyed her quesadilla (she’s a huge fan of all things Mexican) and BB loved her wrap (which I had a nibble of, for science, and found really fresh and tasty), although she couldn’t eat it all.
Husband’s jerk ribs were a hit; the meat itself was deeply seasoned although both Husband and I commented that they could have stood to be a lot spicier as there was none of the heat that we usually associate with jerk, however they were still very pleasant. I’m not a fan of sweet potato but his fries were a hit with everyone else! MIL actually really enjoyed her main after being worried about not finding a dish she’d like and said that the potatoes were especially nice.
If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t a fan of my burrito. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, and it was exactly how you’d expect a burrito to be, but it just wasn’t to my taste. The sour cream was a nice addition but the mince beef mixture inside was overwhelmingly smoky and I really didn’t like the pink onions which seemed halfway between raw and cooked, but not one or the other.
Dessert was what I was REALLY looking forward to. I’ve never tried churros before but spend enough time on hipster food websites to know how trendy they are and I’ve been wanting to have them for AGES…let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed! Sausage and I both had the churros, her from the kids menu and me from the adults and we both seriously enjoyed them. The chocolate dipping sauce was really rich and almost bitter but the perfect accompaniment to the sweet, crispy dough; a very indulgent end to our meals.
MIL had ice cream (take a look at Jane’s Kitchen Miracles for the best ice cream makers) and chose one scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and cherry which was an inspired choice. The cherry ice cream tasted like actual cherries! BB had a kids brownie which came with ice cream (beware, the brownie is HOT! and will burn little mouths if eaten without caution) and polished off as much as she could manage. I think Husband was the winner again with dessert choices; not usually one for mega sweet food, he pushed the boat out and chose a banana waffle split. I cannot emphasise enough how delicious it was. The waffle was chewy and the butterscotch sauce was like a liquid Werthers Original on the plate! Husband’s one minor complaint was that the banana could have stood to be cooked just a little more.
I also need to give an honourable mention to the drinks: Sausage had decided on a “Hippy Hippy Shake” smoothie (pineapple, passion fruit, mango, banana, pomegranate juice) before we even got there and BB followed suit, both of which got polished off in about three seconds. Husband had a strawberry smash which was literally some smashed up strawberries in a glass, topped with soda and mint, and it was SO refreshing! I went for the Orchard Pig Sparkling Apple and Elderflower and enjoyed it so much that I immediately started Googling to see where I could buy more! All a really nice alternative to the usual soft drink offerings.
Aside from a couple of very minor glitches, I think our Giraffe experience was really positive. The staff were incredibly polite and helpful (activity sheets and crayons for the kids are ALWAYS a winner) and the actual setting of the restaurant was really pleasant. We enjoyed the food and all commented that it’s definitely somewhere we’d eat again. Thanks so much to Giraffe for being the place that I finally lost my churro virginity. I’ll remember it forever…
It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.
We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.
I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.
So, onto the food!
Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.
For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.
Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.
Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!
In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.
The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.
Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!
One thing that we love to do as a family is eat out, especially at places we’ve never tried before, so when Wagamama offered us the chance to go along and try their menu, we were really excited. Despite the fact that we’re all Japanophiles, with a shared love of their food and culture, we’ve never been to Wagamama before so yesterday was a whole new experience for us.
As soon as we walked in, the thing which struck me was the actual style of dining; the tables were set up into long rows of benches, rather than isolated little islands in the dining area which is the usual English way. It was different in a “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kinda way, but something which I really loved.
We’d checked out the menu online before visiting and the girls knew what they wanted, but Husband and I ummed and ahhed for a while because everything on the menu looked so tasty. We were given plenty of time to decide and Husband ordered a rather exotic looking juice in the meantime. (Kale, apple, lime and pear, in case you’re wondering and it just tasted so GREEN!).
In the end, the girls chose a mini chicken yaki soba and a mini chicken cha han, both of which were really tasty. One of the things I really liked was that each dish was made of super fresh ingredients and were bought out to us as soon as they were ready, meaning no-ones meal was left to sit under lights while we waited for the rest. I also loved the kids chopsticks that we were given which kind of slot together and made it loads easier for the girls to use.
Husband and I ended up opting for the shirodashi ramen (him) which was slow-cooked pork belly, marinated in bulgogi sauce in a noodle and reduced chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg while I went for the Wagamama ramen which was grilled chicken, barbecued pork, prawns, chikuwa and mussels in a miso, ginger and chicken noodle soup. topped with half a tea-stained egg, menma and spring onions.
I’m not going to lie; I think mine was genuinely one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were tender and the broth was fairly simple but the pork belly was unbelievably tasty and the mussels were like little bombs of flavour throughout the dish. I’ve never had wakame before and actually thought it was squid while I was eating it, but it’s kind of like a Japanese equivalent of a crabstick, but formed around bamboo…apparently! Husband really enjoyed his too; his broth was spicier than mine with a really rich, warming flavour and the slow-cooked pork was, again, super tender and flavourful.
I think the thing that we liked the most about our Wagamama experience, although it’s hard to narrow down because it was a delight from beginning to end, was just the fact that it was something different. Don’t get me wrong, we love a burger and all of the “usual” choices in family-oriented restaurants, but it was SO nice to consider different flavours, textures and ingredients, especially for exposing the girls to new things. It was also a lot healthier than your average restaurant lunch; my Wagamama ramen totalled about 700 calories for the whole bowl, and given how full I was I thought that was pretty reasonable. In fact, we were all too stuffed for dessert but next time we go to Wagamama (and there WILL be a next time!), that banana katsu is MINE!
Our bill, for 2 adult mains, 2 kids meals, 1 adult fresh juice, 2 kids fresh apple juices (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this – it was the freshest apple juice I’ve ever tasted…it was literally like someone had crushed an apple into a glass) and a Coke Zero for me came to £37, which I have to say is really reasonable. I certainly don’t begrudge a lunch bill like that when it’s being spent on huge portions of fresh, super nutritious food which is cooked to order.
I think I could quite comfortably say that Wagamama is now a favourite eatery for all of us in the Mum’s the Word house and somewhere which will definitely be on our must-visit list for our next shopping trip. Thanks to Wagamama for having us and for converting us to their way of eating.