Is this Winchester's new party capital?
Winchester's latest venue brings exotic foods, delicious cocktails, beautiful decor and some much-needed sunshine to the City centre. Reporting from launch night James West explains what you can expect from Turtle Bay Winchester.
It’s a Thursday evening in Winchester. We’re in mid-January, just a few days on from what has been proclaimed Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year. We’ve had a period of incessant rain which has been unusually persistent even for a nation used to regular precipitation. The new year ritual of booking a holiday simply isn’t enough. August is so far removed from the current reality as to feel utterly abstract. In fact, even the idea of a dry, bright, warm spring morning is hard to visualise.
In short, we all need a pick me up. Thankfully, a large group of dedicated people, clearly preempting this collective doom, have been working hard in the background. I imagine now they shared a collective grin while applying the finishing touches to our cure: “We know exactly how you’ll be feeling on the January 18 2018 and we’re about to fix it.”
It’s against this backdrop that the Winchester Bloggers and a number of our fellow bloggers arrived on Jewry Street for the opening of the city’s latest venue, having been kindly invited as guests for the launch. It’s called Turtle Bay and it already feels like the city’s party capital.
First impressions were fantastic. The large corner plot looked bright without being garish, with smart signage and a flurry of activity on display inside. We were quickly and efficiently ushered inside and were immediately impressed. Spacious and stylish, Winchester’s Turtle Bay is a real gem and it's easy to see where the 800k investment has gone. We’ve visited the Southampton venue on numerous occasions and were struck by how utterly different this new location felt; more understated, cool and very classy.
Thankfully, like its sister branch, the staff were similarly very welcoming, clearly proud to be part of such a great looking venue. And the ethos of music, socialising and fun was on display from the get-go.
The room is dominated by the impressive central bar and dance floor framed by the street-side windows that are sure to attract many passers-by. Occupying the former Toni and Guy hairdressers, it’s deceptively spacious (3500 sqft to be precise), with an unusual L-shape configuration meaning there’s plenty of standing room and ample seating.
We were served tasters of several of the signature Turtle Bay dishes, including the delicious Trini Doubles, (curried chickpea and coconut flatbreads - try them) and the Halloumi and Mushroom burgers which convinced an ardent meat eater like myself that vegetarians might not be suffering as much as I suspect. Check out the Turtle Bay food menus here.
The drinks were also free-flowing, with a good selection of signature cocktails available to showcase one of Turtle Bay’s selling points. We all loved the Marley Mojito, which added a distinctive and very welcome watermelon flavour to the ever-popular Caribbean cocktail. The other favourite in our party was the Bay Bramble, another rum cocktail, this time combining blackberry and lemon for a refreshing hit.
As well as the staff and venue, huge credit must go to the bands Laid Black and Troy Ellis and the Hail Jamaica Reggae Band who delivered the perfect soundtrack of cool Caribbean beats and singalong moments. Turtle Bay is clearly going to be one of those rare places which you pop in for a bite to eat with a friend after work, and then find yourself walking home several hours later singing and grinning to yourself.
A huge thank you to the front of house staff and all those behind the scenes, in the run-up and on the night, who made it such a successful night. It’s easy to be skeptical about a 'chain' restaurant, but when it’s executed with such aplomb and passion, it’s only the churlish or stubbornly short-sighted who wouldn't give it try. Turtle Bay Winchester has more style, heart and unique characteristics than many other independent venues. All of us lucky to attend certainly received the perfect mid-winter boost and with its party stake planted firmly in the ground, I would urge you to grab a bit of Turtle Bay Winchester sunshine sooner rather than later.
Learn more and book Turtle Bay Winchester.