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Stephane Colinet greets every patron at Turtle Cove Bar & Grille like a long-lost friend or perhaps an important celebrity. Handshakes, hugs, and European-style kisses on both cheeks are de rigueur, but the warmth is genuine. The Marblehead resident, who owns Turtle Cove with his wife, Gayle MacEachern Colinet, radiates the charm of the countryside in the southwest of France, where he grew up, circulating through the dining room and making everyone feel special. Ambiance is created with décor straight out of Hollywood, and dark wood interiors are highlighted by tall white leather banquettes in the main dining room and director’s chairs in the popular lounge.

That style is no surprise—the couple met in Santa Monica, and the name of the restaurant was inspired by a cove in Malibu that felt like an escape from the everyday. A splash of sunshine has proved the right touch—when the restaurant opened quietly last winter, with everyone battered by blizzards, patrons were quickly drawn to the restaurant’s warm escapist vibe and new take on coastal cuisine.

The menu specializes in fresh food, simply yet flavorfully prepared. The proprietors get daily deliveries of seafood, and take special pride in the glistening fresh tuna. Purists should try it in the daily crudo: tuna belly thinly sliced and very lightly dotted with a sesame dressing. A more elaborate presentation comes with the tuna tartare—the tuna is freshly diced for each order, served at the perfect temperature to emphasize its buttery goodness, on a bed of ripe avocado. The dish is lightly swirled with sesame dressing, every bite an umami bomb.

Don’t overlook the appetizer of jewel-like pink-and-white radishes—it’s a dish that marked family gatherings and summer cookouts of Colinet’s youth. Surprising and delightful, the crisp, slightly peppery radish is elevated by creamy sweet butter and coarse sea salt harvested from local waters. Pick up a radish, add a bit of the butter and salt and be transported to a picnic in France.

Main courses feature an array of thoughtfully prepared meats and seafood dishes. The fresh seafood stew offers a generous medley of clams, lobster, and large, tender scallops. The subtle broth, flavored with fennel and roasted tomatoes, doesn’t overpower the stars of the soup. The Simply Grilled section will appeal to anyone who appreciates a perfectly seared salmon steak or beef steak. The protein is served with the diner’s choice of sauces—béarnaise, au poivre, bordelaise, or citrus/garlic butter. Try the filet mignon with the creamy, slightly lemony béarnaise sauce—it’s delicate and tender, yet fully flavored.

Special care went into the wine list, which is packed with small producers and unique blends. The restaurant carries an impressive 20 different wines by the glass, and Stephane Colinet—who worked as wine director at Burlington’s Café Escadrille for a decade and was a recurring wine expert with Billy Costa on NECN’s TV Diner—delights in helping guests find just the right pairing for every dish, whether it’s a crisp albarino, a buttery chardonnay, or a big California red. For a truly unique tipple, try the Blanc de Bleu, a California sparkler turned a surprising vibrant Caribbean Sea blue by a hint of blueberries—it’s delicately fruity and dry.  

Don’t skimp on dessert. The chocolate mousse cake, with layers of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate, is light and fun. And special. Just like the whole Turtle Cove experience.