There can be no finer way to spend a summer lunchtime than having a couple of glasses of wine and a salad whilst gazing out over the deep blue/green of the Caribbean Sea, the sun glinting off the waves and the small boats bobbing up and down; the locals in their bright summer clothes passing by at a gentle pace in no particular hurry to get anywhere.
A close second must come the wine, salad and looking across Leeds’ Albion Street to the brown/grey concrete of the Halifax Bank, the heat haze shimmering above the tarmac and the taxis, buses and cars carving one another up in a bid to beat the green light on the Headrow – and the citizens of that wonderful conurbation in a rush to get back to work or catch a bus besporting their pasty white torsos in a weird variety of shorts, tops or overalls with hi-viz vests. Ah! the romance of it all. Turning away from the window the ambience of the West Indies was a little more in evidence with a central island bar and beach hut decor. I say West Indian but, according to Google maps the only Turtle Bay listed is in Hawaii, which is about as far away from the Caribbean as Albion Street is. Nit picking done, let’s eat. I try not to review chains but there are not too many of this franchise so I am willing to stretch a point. The first thing to mention is the service, which was exemplary, so much so that my waitress, Laura Costello according to the bill, even went so far as to laugh at my jokes, definitely above and beyond the call of duty. She showed me to my table, after having given me a choice, and gave me the menu. She informed me that wine was on offer at two for the price of one and so I may wish to peruse the drink menu first and she would bring the booze straight away to enjoy whilst reading the food menu. I love this place already. The wine selection is limited and labelled ‘Good’, ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ with three or four choices in each. From the ‘Better’ section I ordered the Primitivo at £5.60 for 175ml., or should I say 350ml. What a bargain. Not only was it cheap but also very palatable and just light enough to accompany the salad I was about to order. The one problem is that both glasses arrived simultaneously so everyone looking in the restaurant window thinks that I have a drink problem, which I do: I only have one mouth.
The usual dilemma presented itself in that there was a lunch section, and given my strap line, I could hardly order from anywhere else even though I would have loved a goat curry and dumplings. It was possibly a sign as I am going to Italy next week and need to bank a few saved calories before I hit the gnocchi and polenta. It was also such a lovely day that a salad was probably the better choice. It was billed on the menu as ‘Chicken Festival Salad’ and described as ‘Grilled jerk chicken, dressed rocket, baby gem, sugar snaps, avocado, mango, onion, citrus dressing.’ The price was £9.50. It arrived well presented with the seared jerk chicken atop of the fruit and vegetable components which were all of liberal amounts. The sugar snaps had been cut at an angle like runner beans, rather than left whole which was a nice touch, as was a few shavings of fresh coconut to garnish. The chicken was not as spicy as I was expecting but something lurking in the dressing had a bit of a kick to it. The rest of the dressing had a citrus tang which gave the whole dish a very refreshing taste.
Being a man of iron will, and one who had just consumed half a bottle of Italian red, I asked the waitress for the dessert menu. When she brought it, the ever helpful Laura asked me if I would like her to recommend the dessert which was her mother’s favourite. I replied that it may be more a propos to let me know which one her grandmother would order. This triggered fits of laughter which seemed genuine so I did what I always do when I get a laugh from a young lady and surreptitiously checked my fly. I never did get an answer so I went for the Caymanas Rum Cake with rum caramel and vanilla ice cream at £4.85 and a black Americano (£1.70). The rum cake was not as rich as it sounded and was lovely and light, and the caramel sauce and ice cream complimented each other perfectly, warm and rich and cold and refreshing, in that order! My only quibble about the whole meal was the coffee which was very much on the weak side. Other than that the whole lunch was wonderful. I may even come back for that goat curry and dumplings once I have shed the Venetian calories.
Article first published by Leeds Living on 9th June, 2016