We tried the new Christmas menu at a Bristol restaurant where there are queues out the door

There is already a genuine Christmas party feel to this Caribbean-inspired restaurant
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On a freezing Friday night, there is a queue out the door when we arrive at Turtle Bay on Broad Quay. 

This Caribbean-inspired restaurant must be one of the busiest places in central Bristol in the run-up to Christmas. And it’s easy to see why.

Inside, it’s warm, buzzing and the spicy Caribbean smells permeate the restaurant and the bar area where cocktails are being consumed with gusto.

With its rum shack-style bar, vibrant murals and splashes of colour, it has a sunny Caribbean holiday feel even if it’s slap bang on the city centre in downtown Bristol on a wet and windy December evening.

The reason we are joining the queue for tables is to try the new festive menu, launched only this week. 

And there are new cocktails to try, too, so as soon as we are shown to the table, we dive into tall glasses of Light & Stormy (£10.10) - a refreshing and deceptively boozy combination of RedLeg spiced rum, falernum, ginger beer, bitters and fresh lime. 

There are a number of new dishes on the menu this month. They include a Seafood Soul Bowl (king prawns, squid and salmon in a mild and creamy coconut sauce with rice and peas and roasted greens), Buddha bowls (fresh salad, tropical fruit, rice and peas with jerk halloumi or pulled jerk chicken) and the vegan Caribbean Curry Katsu.

The king prawns were a fiery starter at Turtle BayThe king prawns were a fiery starter at Turtle Bay
The king prawns were a fiery starter at Turtle Bay

We start by sharing the garlic pit prawns (£7.30) - four large whole king prawns smothered in a fiery chilli and garlic butter which we mopped up with the soft roti breads still smoky from the grill - and crisp and greaseless salt fish fritters (£6.40) packed with salted fish and with enough Scotch bonnet chillies to leave a real tingle on the tongue.

From the new main courses, we tried the jerk lamb (£17.80) - an impressively tender and large lamb steak served with rich and dark jerk gravy, silky sweet potato mash and roasted, shredded greens. It was a generous and comforting dish on a cold December evening.

The jerk lamb is one of the new dishes on the menu at Turtle BayThe jerk lamb is one of the new dishes on the menu at Turtle Bay
The jerk lamb is one of the new dishes on the menu at Turtle Bay

To finish off, we had the salted caramel brownie (£5) - a decadent and gooey brownie as sticky as Glastonbury Festival mud and served with a delicious coconut ice cream.

As well as the new dishes we tried, the restaurant also has a set Christmas menu (two courses for £24.50 or three courses for £29.50) with a free festive cocktail.

On a Friday night in December, Turtle Bay was loud (we struggled to hear each other across the table) and slightly chaotic but it's a fun venue full of party spirit, which makes it an ideal spot for a festive meet-up.

Turtle Bay, 8 Broad Quay, Bristol, BS1 4DA.