All Summer long Turtle Bay restaurants around the country will be celebrating with different event. I was lucky enough to be invited with the Love Pop Ups London gang, to their launch event at Turtle Bay in Brixton, which included live music and rum tasting masterclasses! #cheatingongin read on to find out what to expect!
*Full disclosure: my experience at Turtle Bay was free in return for this honest review. I was invited via Love Pop Ups London and all opinions remain my own*
Summer Soundclash at Turtle Bay
What is the Turtle Bay Summer Soundclash?
Well a Soundclash is usually a competition between crews from opposing sound systems. However in Turtle Bay’s Summer soundclash is a 4 day festival of music, Caribbean food & drink touring the UK this July and August.
You can expect live music, rum tastings, DJ’s, bottomless brunch and a whole lot of fun!
Caribbean rum masterclass
The rum masterclass was a trip around the Caribbean islands – via rum (they couldn’t afford to actually send us there!)
We started with a rum and tonic, which blew my mind! #cheatingongin I had the El Dorado 3 rum ‘n’ cucumber & watermelon tonic from Double Dutch. It was a lovely summery, fruity, refreshing drink and at £4.95 it’s a bargain!
But we were here to learn about rum (& taste it!)
How is rum made?
Sylvia started by explaining that there were 3 methods to make rum, British, French and Spanish. The British and Spanish both use molasses (the by product of sugar production) in the fermentation and distillation. However the French use the sugar cane juice. We were going to be trying all British style rums at this tasting.
Rum, like whisky, has to be aged for a minimum of three years. However the aging process goes a lot quicker in the Caribbean than the Scottish highlands, so you can notice a difference in how the spirits age.
We got a chance to try the raw material for rum – sugar cane, bought fresh from Brixton market:
We then saw a selection of things that we would taste/smell alongside the rums to help us with the tasting:
This is the raw ingredient for the British and Spanish rums, molasses:
Tasting the British style Caribbean rums:
Appleton Estate Signature Blend
We started out with the Appleton Estate Signature Blend from Jamaica. I was fortunate enough to see their female master blender – Joy Spence – present her rums at the Campari Masters event earlier this year. She makes some truly fabulous rums! We tried this one before and after tasting some dark chocolate – it’s amazing how that changes the flavour!
Soggy Dollar Island Spiced rum
Next up from the British Virgin Islands (or BVI) is Soggy Dollar rum. The rum is named after a famous bar in the BVI where you could only get there from swimming up to it – so everyone paid with soggy dollars! And apparently they only serve the Painkiller cocktail. This spiced rum was fruity – I got orange and banana notes – and some caramel, ending with spice and pepper.
The Real McCoy rum
The Real McCoy rum has a great story too. Bill McCoy was the pinoeer rum runner during prohibition times. McCoy made a name for his unadulterated ‘pure’ rum – he never watered it down, unlike others during that era. Hence the saying and name ‘The Real McCoy’. Made today by founder Bailey Pryor and Richard Seale, a master distiller from Barbados, this rum is a white rum with no adulteration. It’s smooth and peppery and a little different to the Spanish style like Barcardi, that you might be used to.
Also made in Barbados (not unsurprising as this is Richard Seale’s own family distillery), this is a spiced rum. They call Barbados the birthplace of rum and for good reason! While this distillery is is new, there has been rum made in Barbados since the 1700’s. With no additives and a minimum aging of 2 years, all the flavour comes from the American oak barrels.
Rum 10 is named because it’s aged for 10 years – which is rare. Made in Grenada, this rum is smooth and easy to drink by itself. Try drinking on the rocks after dinner with some dark chocolate, else serve simply with soda water or the local serve, fresh coconut juice.
There’s a story behind this one too! Apparently there was a huge fire in Trinidad and Tobago in 1932 and they lost most of it’s rum. However when the distillery was bought later they discovered rum barrels from 1919. Recently Angostura have recreated the flavour of the 1919s rum by aging for 8 years in freshly charred barrels. It’s a lovely soft rum with oaky notes. I could easily drink this on it’s own or as a rum and tonic, and they suggest using a plain Indian tonic for that.
Pusser’s rum is a Navy style. The story goes that the Purser who gave out the rum rations in the Navy would water it down. The sailors weren’t very happy about this and so they came up with a way to test the proof of the rum – if they poured it over gunpowder and the powder still lit then they knew it was strong enough. (There’s a similar story relating to Navy strength gin!). Apparently this dark rum is popular in pimping the peanut butter and banana smoothies at Turtle Bay!
Wray & Nephew overproof
If Pusser’s is gunpowder strength, then Wray and Nephew’s white overproof rum takes this to the next level. At 63% abv it’s not something to be drunk lightly, however once your mouth has acclimatised to the strength, I found it incredibly smooth. One to drink on it’s own if you dare!
My favourite of the ones we tried was definitely the Angostura 1919 – maybe because it’s not dissimilar to an aged gin?!
Rum masterclasses can be booked as part of the Summer Soundclash celebrations for £35. You get a welcome rum and tonic to start, 8 rums to taste and a sharing platter of food between two (you need it to soak up all the rum!).
Dinner at Turtle Bay Brixton
After we had finished our rum tasting masterclass, we had to eat something! (The pours were very generous). Luckily with the masterclass a sharing platter between two is included.
I got the veggie platter to share, but some of the others got the meat ones, so I got to see what was included for both:
The vegan platter has sweetcorn fritters, curried chickpeas on bara roti, jerk mushroom, roasted red peppers, cucumber chutney & pickled vegetables. But the star of the show (and why I chose the vegan platter) was the plantain! So soft and sweet – totally yummy. The curried chickpeas added a kick of heat and spice and there was definitely something hot on the sweetcorn fritters. Only the jerk mushrooms were a let down – I didn’t get any flavour off of these.
The meat eaters got jerk pit chicken wings (which looked better than the mushroom), pork ribs, crispy chilli squid, the same bara roti with chickpea curry, cucumber chutney & pickled vegetables. I was able to try the crispy chilli squid as my friend didn’t eat seafood and can confirm it was tasty and perfectly cooked – crispy without a hint of chew. Seeing as everyone finished their platters there were no complaints here!
We also got to order a main dish each, here are some of the choices available on the menu:
Mac and cheese with jerk chicken
Originally the mac and cheese came out without the chicken on top, but the waitress quickly got this rectified. Mac and cheese can come as it is, or topped with jerk chicken, chilli prawns, jerk bacon or mushrooms.
Curry goat hash
This was a different take on the curried goat. Served up with onions and potatoes and topped with fried eggs, this could be a brunch dish too! Unfortunately the kitchen took a long time to get this order out, so my friend ended up taking it away, but only after getting that all important yolk porn..
Fish fry platterThe fish fry platter comes with a Red Stripe beer and chilli battered salmon fillet, crispy squid, chips, slaw and jerk mayo. This was a very generous portion, you could easily share this between two if you got some additional sides. The salmon was an unusual choice for the fried fish, but it worked and I already mentioned that the squid was good!
The menu also covers a load more options, both traditional Caribbean food and some twists on the traditional too. On our table the burger, coconut curried chicken and jerk salmon all went down well (and too quick for me to get a picture!). Whilst we were a big group (7 people), the food didn’t come out consistently from the kitchen, which meant that some people had finished their dinners before everyone was served. I think this was part due to the staff getting used to the new menu & possibly being distracted by the live music!
I really enjoyed the rum masterclass – spirit tasting is definitely my thing and not for the faint hearted. I would suggest not drinking all of the very generous samples though! Sylvie was a great host, telling us about the rums and encouraging us to detect the flavours and suggesting which things to pair with them. The rum and tonics were a mind blowing discovery – with the fruity flavoured tonic, this is a great Summer BBQ drink.
The sharing platters and extra food were definitely needed to soak up all the rum. The food was tasty and there was something for everyone on the menu – whether you like spice and heat or not. The staff dealt with the hiccups on service well and I don’t think that experience was typical, it probably helps if you don’t go as a large group.
The Summer Soundclash programme has lots of live music and other events going on to – head the Turtle bay website for more information and to book.
Big thanks to Turtle Bay for hosting us and to Love Pop Ups London for the invite!