the sign above the counter of the Thai stall in Halifax Borough Market says: “Don’t bother to catch a flight to Bangkok, we have everything (except sunshine).”
If I’m in town and want a quick bite on the move, nine times out of ten this is where I make for. It’s easy to locate – just find the queue snaking down past the big knickers stall and join it.
A team of women buzz about, throwing prawns, noodles and veg into massive woks, shouting orders to one another in Thai. At peak times (there’s never not a peak time) they’re just a blur. More often than not I order steamed dumplings swollen with tender pork: soft, fragrant, perfect pillows of loveliness and three for a quid with a scatter of coriander and a dash of soy. There’s seating for a dozen people at the side but I prefer to walk and eat while I head for Top Door Espresso for the best flat white in town.
And now – double the joy! Thai Corner has popped up in a proper sit-down restaurant across town at Dean Clough, though on a Friday lunchtime there are droves of folk buying take-outs too. In fact the whole place is absolutely rammed. The rain is biblical, bouncing off the Yorkstone flags but the vibe inside is so jolly, so infectious, two steps in and the steely sky is a distant memory.
Dean Clough is a modern miracle; 20 acres of sensitively restored Victorian mill buildings, now home to 120 businesses employing 4,500 workers. There are cafes, galleries, a theatre, restaurants, bars, a couple of gyms and a cluster of indie shops – and a warehouse-sized Jack Wills. No small wonder Thai Corner is bursting at the seams. It’s colonised the space the newly-departed Ricci’s Tapas occupied, in the less-than-romantic sounding F Mill – but it’s a handsome room, lofty, with a vaulted red brick ceiling, exposed stone walls and dark wood floors, with white leather banquettes along one side of the long, narrow room. There’s the inevitable smattering of pipe work and block wooden walls that look as if a hipster designer has had unbridled fun with giant Jenga.
The menu is a longer version of the market offer but all the faves are there: chicken satay, spring roll and fish cake (all around £2.50). We order recklessly from the 10 starter choices. Crispy prawns arrive – huge and juicy with a feather-light tempura; a small fight breaks out to grab them. Honey spare ribs fall sweetly off the bone, and fried tofu with peanut sauce is a revelation. Those sublime steamed pork dumplings are present, of course.
Next up, tamarind duck; dark and sticky with a bowl of beautifully fragrant jasmine rice, and a plate of crispy chicken, looking for all the world like KFC but tasting a million times better.
Pork belly green bean wins too, and the spicy holy basil’ whatever that is, is sinus-clearing and hot as hell and absolutely works.
We haven’t even broached the ‘rice & noodles’ section of the menu but the choices are splendid: various noodle soups, pad kee mow (flat rice noodles with vegetables), tom kha (skinny rice noodles in coconut lemongrass broth), and a handful of curries, including mussamun, panang and pad khing.
A word about service; it’s very sweet, incredibly efficient and relentlessly cheerful despite the demands of a phenomenally busy lunchtime service plus the take-outs. Everything arrives quick as a flash, on those colourful tin plates which help to cheer the day up no end. The open kitchen reveals head chef Tom Ratchanee-Peacock and staff skipping about without pause or breaking a sweat.
We’re as full as eggs but a dish whizzes by and lands on the next table and it looks so good I order it. Turns out kow soi is the best thing I’ve put in my mouth since the pork belly mac ‘n’ cheese I scarfed at True North round the corner last month. Egg noodles, carrot and greens in yellow curry is how it’s described, but the reality is far less prosaic. Such depth of flavour in one bowl; it transcends the humble ingredients and I’m instantly on another continent with different weather. You can add your protein of choice (more fat prawns, thanks) and there’s a tangle of fine crispy noodles on the top. Yours for £8.50.
The appeal of the cooking lies in its simple honesty; here’s friendly food that isn’t trying to be something it’s not. It’s made and served with love. Do yourselves a favour – in these uncertain times and regardless of what’s ailing you, Thai Corner is the antidote – and at these prices you can enjoy any amount of sunshine.
Thai Corner, Dean Clough, Halifax, HX3 5AX t: 01422 343397 .
Hours: 11.30 – 9 pm Monday – Saturday. Closed Sunday.