Of the many high standard eating units at Shrewsbury Market Hall, it’s the one that’s hardest to eat at. And there’s a simple reason for that – it’s the best. Located beside the ever-brilliant Barkworth’s fishmonger, House of Yum has been a huge hit since opening with a pared back, simple menu of Thai classics.
Its reputation goes before it; regulars and foodies alike hunt down tables like game enthusiasts after autumn pheasant.
It’s bringing stable employment to a team of five or so workers, providing yet another attractive addition to Shrewsbury’s high quality indoor market and serving satisfaction to those lucky enough to bag a seat.
Having been thwarted on every occasion that I’d tried to bag a Saturday seat – standing in a queue and waiting for 30 minutes while someone demolishes a green curry isn’t my style – we finally got lucky; albeit it for a weekday lunch, rather than a Saturday, when there was still just one table remaining.
The menu is relatively simple. There’s a selection of classic Thai dishes – noodles, soups, stir fries and curries – with a selection of specials. When we visited, the specials were ostensibly fish dishes; big, plump, hand-dived scallops or prawns the size of giant’s fingers from far flung corners of the globe.
The provider of ingredients for those dishes is Ian Cornall, the proprietor of Barkworths, who is one of Shropshire’s food heroes. While some in the food industry are no more than traders; Cornall is a connoisseur. He picks the best day boat fish from Cornwall, Scotland and other fishing ports, giving Shrewsbury customers the sort of quality that they’d otherwise only find in bigger markets like Birmingham.
Cornall goes a step further. He looks to work with independent operators of fishing boats off the coast of Wales, providing them with a new market for their catch and helping to support their industry. One of life’s good guys and one of the food scene’s exceptional talents, his counter is a joy to behold.
Diners at The House of Yum, therefore, can literally look forward to the freshest of ingredients: a few Scottish scallops as a treat for a starter, a stunning and tender piece of Cornish monkfish as a main – the range is wide, the choices almost unlimited.
The House of Yum is a humble stand with plenty of stripped wood, Thai furnishings and chairs that are so rickety and wobbly that a handyman ought to take a screwdriver to them before they completely disintegrate.
We grabbed a corner table at The House of Yum before anyone else dived in to take it. Paper menus had been placed on it and there was a chalkboard listing the day’s specials – mostly dishes featuring great ingredients from The House Of Yum’s neighbour.
My partner started with a bowl of mildly spiced and wonderfully fragrant mushroom soup while I ate a bowl of minced chicken with lime, coriander and a spicy, delicate broth.
Both were delicious. The mushroom soup contained quartered closed cup mushrooms that swam in the complex and delicious flavours. My minced chicken was tender and sour, hot and satisfying. It was served with lettuce leaves and a little salad; rather like a Chinese yuk sung. The idea, presumably, was to scoop up the meat and broth on leaves of gem lettuce before making short work of them.
My main was the stand-out dish of the day. A red Thai curry was deep, rich and satisfying. It looked great and tasted even better.
Made with lashings of indulgent and creamy coconut milk, it didn’t overdo the chilli and had bags of flavour.
Tenderly poached vegetables added texture and contrast to the generously provided pieces of chicken, though the latter were a little overcooked.
A timbale of sticky rice provided starchy ballast to dip and soak up the flavour. Save for the chicken having been cooked for a little too long; it was a super, super dish.
My partner ate a king prawn stir-fry, full of sticky rice, small-cut vegetables and three colossal prawns. It needed a little more seasoning to add flavour, though it was reasonable enough.
The bill was entirely reasonable; with drinks, we paid just a shade over £30, the same price that you might pay for each person at other outlets, and we were happy and replete when we left.
Service had been good; two staff worked the floor busily and while one was a little too fussy at times, both were efficient, engaged, pleasant and polite.
Those who like Thai food are well catered for in Shropshire. The county has a glut of Thai restaurants, just as it has an abundance of curry houses serving food from Bangladesh and India.
The quality of its Thai restaurants is variable; some are exceptional, others are so mediocre that you wouldn’t really want to eat there is the choice was between that and going hungry.
For my money, The House of Yum probably takes the bronze medal among those in Shropshire.
Suree Coates’ small-but-perfectly-formed Ironbridge restaurant remains the county’s number one. A former UK Thai Chef of the Year, she has been ahead of the crowd for many, many years.
Chang Thai, in Ludlow, is a comfortable second. With a good menu, precise cooking, a fabulous dining room and good front of house staff, it’s a perennial favourite.
The House of Yum is a shoe-in at third. It offers such great flavours, brilliant ingredients and warm hospitality.
The only trouble is in finding a table – just make sure you get there early if you don’t want to miss out.