So its official. Leicester people aren’t too bothered about good food. That at least would seem to be the view of the Peach Pub company. After three and a half years they have now closed The Almanack, their pub in the city’s Highcross Centre,  prompting the heading on industry website Propel of “Peach exits city unsuited to gastro pubs.”

What they actually said was  “Peach has thought for a while that Leicester wasn’t the right site for a Peach gastro-pub offer”.  I don’t want to come across all defensive, in fact in a way I kind of agree with them. But what I would say is that it might have been the right place if that offer had been a bit better.


I liked the place – staff were great, it was nicely done out and was a good, welcoming place to go in the daytime. It made all the  right noises about “honest and ethically sourced” food, and I remember one rather good lunch when it first opened. But on subsequent visits, the food just wasn’t quite good enough, and most other feedback I received wasn’t over-enthusiastic.. There was poor cooking on occasions and dishes that just left you thinking they didn’t measure up to their promise.

Peach say they never lost money on the place but couldn’t “make it work”.  They took the chance to get out when they had an offer from Turtle Bay, the Caribbean chain that opened last year in Nottingham. Peach meanwhile is carrying on expanding in its core environment of well-heeled  market towns.

A shame then.  It could have been a beautiful relationship, but I suspect both sides are left thinking “It wasn’t me, it was you”.

Turtle Bay, Nottingham

October 22, 2012

Caribbean food has never made the deep inroads into British culture that Indian food has. You’ll find cafes and restaurant in the big urban centres which serve predominantly people of Caribbean origin, but unless – like me – you’re fortunate enough to have a friend like Dorothy Francis, many people’s encounter with food from the West Indies may be limited to jerk chicken on carnival day.

So I was intrigued to be invited over to Nottingham for the launch of Turtle Bay, the third in a incipient chain of Caribbean restaurants. It’s sited in the Cornerhouse, the big development of cinema, bars and restaurants next to the Royal Centre, neighbouring several other chain staples – in other  words,  right in the mainstream.   And I’m told one of the founders was also behind the Latin Las Iguanas chain. Given the size of the the investment – and the generosity of this launch party  – someone is very confident they can make  a breakthrough.

We had canape versions of the menu and there were some promising signs. Jerk chicken wings had a scotch bonnetty fire about them, and strips of beef had a great tang of allspice that suggests the recipes used are not afraid of using genuine flavours. “Trini Doubles” of stuffed little puffed rotis were gorgeous, as was some citrussy mackerel.  Plaintains were  disappointing and not everything worked and while obviously a place like this will presumably have the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors, there was enough to think I’d like to try the main menu at some point. Staff have been selected for their personality as much as experience and the place wants to develop a party vibe – they certainly gave the place a good launch.

The manager told me that West Indian communities in Southampton and Milton Keynes had given the loal branches a wide berth to begin with, but had slowly come round once they realised the food was ok – well he would say that wouldn’t he?  I’m sure many Jamaicans in Nottingham will be reluctant to admit Turtle Bay can make curry goat like their mum/favoured neghbourhood cafe, but if it can offer people a good time and open the door to a new cuisine it’ll be doing a grand job.

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