Shropshire Star

Food review: Delicious food as Joule's takes Shrewsbury inn in new direction

It’s been a while since Graham and Clare Jenkins exchanged contracts with Market Drayton-based Joule’s on the Henry Tudor House, in Shrewsbury.

Henry Tudor Inn is now owned by Market Drayton-based Joule’s

The couple sold up in 2022, having invested a decade and more money than they might care to remember on turning around the Old Lion Tap.

The Jenkins-restored the exterior and interior of a building that had been down at heel, winning numerous awards for their work. They were intent on restoring the building in Barracks Passage, off Wyle Cop, to its former glories.

And their 11 years at the helm were largely successful. Mr Jenkins had sold his utility business and Mrs Jenkins wanted to put her architectural skills to good use. It was a significant investment for them and the pub was fairly popular.

And so as the Jenkins moved onto pastures new last year, focusing on their other businesses, passing the baton to Joule’s for a venue that is believed to be the only Grade-I listed pub in the county.

Staff were transferred over to the new management with no redundancies, in a changeover that was as seamless as these sort of things get.

Speaking at the time, Steve Nuttall, Joule’s managing director, articulated the company’s passion for old pubs, with more than half in Joule’s estate being listed buildings.

Now that we’re more than 18 months on from that hand-over, a simple question can be asked: has it worked out?

A quirky-looking alcove within the pub

The short answer is: well, sort of. It would be disingenuous to say Joule’s have taken Henry Tudor House, renamed the Henry Tudor Inn, to new heights – they haven’t, nor, indeed, was that the intention.

While the Jenkins may have wanted to trip the light fantastic, organising acoustic gigs by rock ’n’roll stars, or appointing chefs with dreams of Michelin stars, Joule’s is a very different type of operation.

It’s brought stability to the business and a very different sort of identity, where Henry Tudor Inn is now much more a conventional pub, with restaurant, rather than a venue that was perhaps too large.

Joule’s has respected the rarity of owning a Grade-I listed pub and their revamp has been sympathetic. They’ve worked closely with Shropshire Council at every step, though their background as owners of many Grade II pubs has stood them in good stead.

When Joule’s moved in they already had The Bricklayers Arms, in Copthorne, The Dolphin in St Michael’s Street, and The White Horse opposite Shire Hall.

Henry Tudor Inn has followed the trajectory of those – and others – as it’s become simpler, less expensive, more accessible and less upmarket.

Inside the Henry Tudor Inn

It’s become more of a pub, less of a fancy restaurant, and when my friend and I visited there was a good atmosphere and a roaring trade among drinkers.

Joule’s have taken their time in crafting Henry Tudor Inn into a Joule’s Taphouse, which has replaced much of the design work completed under the Jenkins’ watch.

Is it now a more enjoyable space in which to eat? Well, it would be hard to argue that. It’s different, for sure, and offers an earthier, simpler experience.

The venue still makes good use of its rich heritage, though it’s been reorganised in a more conventional manner with booths, a more prominent bar, and a stronger emphasis on drinking.

The menu has changed beyond measure, and a venue that once sought AA Rosettes is now one that offers a decent plate of fish and chips, a pie of the day, and a delicious burger. The identity is manifestly different.

The key, of course, is whether the new owners do old things well. And the short answer to that is: yes. They make a good fist of simpler, less challenging dishes, with a busy, front of house team that was eager to please when my friend and I popped in for an evening supper.

Staff were courteous and polite, judging the mood, being attentive rather than intrusive, and demonstrating a willingness to please.

We sat in the restaurant area, just down from the bar, and while other guests made merry we perused the menu.

We both began with a home-made crumpet, served with gorgonzola, pickled fennel and walnuts. It was a delicious dish.

Gorgonzola crumpet

The gorgonzola was light but flavoursome while the fennel and walnuts added texture and complementary flavours. The crumpet was also light and provided a good vehicle for the toppings. It was a simple bistro dish, executed with skill, that was big on flavour. And while it might not have been a memorable-eat, it was pleasing nonetheless.

My friend opted for a hearty plate of braised short rib with celeriac mash, confit carrots and beef jus as his main. The short rib was delicious. Tender and falling off the bone, it was soft and unctuous, with huge, powerful flavours. The jus was good, with strong and intense flavours, while the mash was creamy and buttery and made for a great, comfort-food dish.

The well- presented and very tender short rib beef served with celeriac mash

I opted for the house burger, comprising a 6oz beef patty with cheese, bacon, pickled onion mustard mayo, and triple cooked chips. A celeriac remoulade was served on the side while the burger came in a brioche bun.

The burger was magnificent, a stand-out element, and had been seasoned well, with plenty of pepper and with a crunchy, caramelised crust. The chips were decent, rather than spectacular, and the bacon had also been well cooked.

The burger was a real delight

It was a good effort, not, perhaps, as spectacular as some of the burger-focused joints elsewhere in town, but pretty good all the same.

We were replete at the end of two courses and those we might have enjoyed dessert, it was time to go.

Joule’s has moved Henry Tudor Inn in a markedly different direction.

That means it’s hard to compare it with what went before – and more sensible to judge it on its own merits. As an accessible pub-restaurant, it ticks most of the boxes with good staff, a familiar menu, and decent levels of service.