Ah, the joys of eating out. We are already back in the fortunate position of not being able to book a table in the blink of an eye.
Try making a phone call for a last minute reservation and you’ll be greeted with, “I’m sorry, we’re full.
Rejection never sounded so good. After 15 months without being able to get a table because the hospitality industry was crooked, it is now difficult to get one because it is booming and the tables are socially distant. Happiness.
The industry, of course, continues to falter. Restaurants – or, most restaurants – are mired in debt, the cost of staying afloat without trading.
The staff are the ones who ultimately foot the bill – as well as the owners.
It is an industry in which people are generally poorly paid and there was an exodus during the pandemic.
Sites are fighting for staff, competing to fill vacancies in an industry with long and antisocial hours and generally low wages.
And yet they are expected to smile, grateful for washing or carrying plates of food to customers too cheerful to say “thank you.”
Funny old world, especially if you work in the hospitality industry.
So we are in a strange place, and maybe we can draw parallels to where we were when the pandemic started.
Remember the usual government headbangers denigrating “low-skilled” workers just before the Covid hit: nursing home workers, garbage collectors, hospital porters. They were the ones taken for granted before Covid – then the nation woke up to the impressive quality and amount of work it was doing when we needed it most.
They are the ones who moved the country forward when we were in danger.
Suddenly they were seen in a new light. They were no longer the target of cheap political points, they were no longer taken for granted.
Restaurant staff are similar. It’s time for us as customers to be a little more grateful, to be polite, kind, well behaved and, if we can afford it, to leave a tip.
For the industry relies heavily on the goodwill of center-left individuals who do not fit into the mainstream and who are happy to do work that others might not.
Which brings us to Chang Thai. While many restaurants in Shropshire declared no hostel seating for those who had not booked in advance, Chang Thai had a table for a Wednesday at 6.30pm.
Happiness. All these flavors. All this learned cuisine. All that good service.
This is a well-run restaurant that is popular with locals and is good enough to warrant a modest trip.
The restaurant has a good owner, focused and reliable cuisine, and decent reception staff who go the extra mile and aim to please customers.
It is not without reason that it thrived before Covid and it is starting to thrive again now that the pandemic is slowly starting to pass – however, let’s not hold ourselves hostage to fortune, we all know there are still days. dark to come.
Chang Thai looks great. The decor is largely made up of upcycled furniture and large artwork on the wall depicting street scenes from Thailand.
It might not have quite the buzz of a local downtown Bangkok restaurant, but it does a better job than any other Thai restaurant in the county.
I started with the obligatory bowl of shrimp crackers with a sweet pepper dip. The dip was probably made in the kitchen, rather than straight from a pot – but if I’m wrong, whoever made it did an impressive job. Not too sweet and with a pleasant warmth, it was picked up happily and greedily with the crisp and light crackers.
Entrance was reasonable; four short ribs garnished with onion and chili and served with a tangy and spicy dip.
The best ribs are those that have been cooked so long and slowly that all the fat has melted, so they’re both chewy and crispy.
It would be pushing the truth to describe Chang Thai’s ribs as being that, although they are quite decent and make a nice entry.
The main course was just as nice.
The Imperial Shrimp – yeah, one level higher than our favorite, Mr. King – was butterfly-shaped and served with small halved broccoli florets and creamy cashews in a tamarind sauce.
The sauce was a bit thin, a smaller, stickier version might have been better, although the unmistakable bittersweet flavor of tamarind was pronounced and made for happy eating.
Light and refreshing dish, the broccoli had been cooked with precision while the prawns were of good quality.
A bowl of well-cooked fluffy jasmine rice served to soak up the watery tamarind and it turned out to be an enjoyable dinner.
The service was good. Two members of staff were present, both polite and efficient and one particularly engaging, caring and charming.
Even while wearing masks, the staff who shine the effort and their efforts do not go unnoticed. In this twilight period, as people begin to regain confidence in their ability to come out, such work is important.
Sparkling eyes and caring, efficient gestures inspire customers to step back into the world, which benefits local businesses.
Now that the vaccination is rolling out – and, PSA: if you haven’t had one, then do us all a favor and roll up your sleeve – it’s time to support local businesses.
Hospitality has been hit hard and needs the constant support of locals and patrons to get back on its feet.
We owe it also to the people who work in this sector and who have suffered from being suitable hosts.
It is hard work and the reciprocity of efforts of hospitality workers is the least we can do as we emerge from the pandemic.
Chang Thai, 3 Market Street, Ludlow SY8 1BP 01584 874212