Sushi at Umai and then the Self-Guided Tudor Town of Shrewsbury Tour

I had to finish up a super tedious file today with a very late deadline, so I decided to do half the work this morning, go and have some fun, and then come home to finish. I wanted to be gone all afternoon to have lunch and do two walking tours, so that would mean an outing of 3.5 to 4 hours, the longest I’ve been away from Puppy. Needless to say, I planned my outing with military precision!

I worked steadily to noon with a mid-morning break to give Puppy a walk. Noonish, I gave her lunch, then had a play session to wear her out. Once she’d had a bowel movement and pee, she was very happy to go into her crate for a nap. Knowing that she’d had plenty of exercise and was being left with a fully tummy and empty bladder, I felt comfortable leaving her. She didn’t even whine as I prepared to head out, which was gratifying.

So first stop was Umai Japanese restaurant. I haven’t had a proper sushi meal since Málaga (and even that was stretching it a bit) and was very overdue, especially since I’ve been having the truly mediocre Tesco stuff to soothe the itch. We’ve been by the restaurant a few times as it’s in the Cross Keys Passage. I doubt I’ll have time to come here for dinner before I leave, but I realised this afternoon that I really should go see Shrewsbury after dark and whether these shuts are as spooky then as I think they would be!

I thought the restaurant was just this tiny bit on the shut, but, nope. There’s a large dining room at the rear towards Princess Street.

I went with the £12.50 mixed sushi special as that would give me the most bang for my buck. Such specials tend to be at the chef’s discretion, but I really wanted octopus. So I asked if a couple of my five nigiri could be octopus. The server said she could ask, but normally there are no substitutions for the lunch special and octopus is never included. So I was delighted when this beautiful plate came very quickly!

Everything was so fresh and this was the first time I’ve been able to describe the maguro (tuna — dark pink) as “buttery.” Whenever I’ve read that description of the fish, I’ve thought people were off their rockers or there was something wrong with my tastebuds! My only quibble is small, that I got three pieces of salmon sashimi plus a salmon nigiri and salmon isn’t my favourite (I’d rather maguro, but I know that’s much more expensive!). The maki (roll) had crabstick in it, so it wasn’t special, but I loved the masago (the orange stuff round it) as I haven’t had it in a while. The octopus was absolutely perfect and exactly what I hoped it would be.

I was enjoying my last piece of it when the server went to take away my plate and I had to quickly swallow and tell her that I wasn’t done as I still had my ginger left! I always save it for the end so that I don’t walk out with a fishy taste in my mouth. That’s one thing I haven’t missed about Canada, the US, and the UK, how I feel rushed to get out of a restaurant. Anyway, my lunch was YUM and very filling. I couldn’t believe the quality and quantity for the price.

I then walked a short distance to the Shrewsbury Museum, where I bought two more self-guided tour pamphlets, a second one for today and one to save for perhaps Monday. Then, it was time to start my tour of the Tudor Town of Shrewsbury. This was the least value tour as it is very light on stops. It said to plan for two hours, but I think I got it done in 30 minutes!

Here’s their map of the tour (click to embiggen to legible size):

The introduction to the tour from the brochure: “Following a disastrous trade depression in the previous century, Shrewsbury’s fortunes revived in the later Tudor period. The population grew and merchants thrived, especially drapers, the middle-men dealing in woollen cloth. It was a period of great re-building. Shrewsbury is one of the best-preserved Tudor towns in England, with many listed 16th century buildings. In this walk, we will draw your attention to just a few, but hope that you enjoy the Tudor townscapes. All of this is, of course, against a background of medieval buildings, many of which still remain — not just the parish churches, but also many of the commercial buildings.”

So chronologically speaking, this tour comes after the medieval one. The first stop is the Tudor exhibit in the museum, where we’ve already been.

Next up, I got all my questions, and then some, answered about the Old Market Hall I have passed a kazillion times. It’s right in front of the museum/music hall.

The Old Market Hall “was built in 1596 by the powerful Guild of Drapers who chose to use stone, which is slightly unusual since most market halls of this era were timber-framed. Tuscan columns support the first floor, where there was a chamber for Welsh cloth dealers and Shrewsbury drapers to meet and negotiate prices.

“The covered area beneath was for the sale of corn. In the far left corner, note the tally stone used to record or document quantities or prices.

“The Square had been the market place since the 13th century, long before the Market Hall was built, and milk and vegetables continued to be sold here until 1868 when the general market was built.”

There are many decorations around the hall.

“On the west side, the large coat of arms with the Tudor dragon and the English lion belongs to Elizabeth I, who was reigning when the building was erected.”

The hall was restored in 2001-2 and is now a café and cinema. You can go upstairs to see the roof.

Directly across from the Old Market Hall, on High Street, is “Owen’s Mansion, built in 1592. Richard Owen was a prominent woollen cloth merchant and this was his prestigious house, in the centre of the commercial area.

“This is a good place to note the curved braces, a shallow S, used to strengthen the frame and the quatrefoils, 4-pointed designs. These and the carving of timbers to form cable mouldings are typical of the Shrewsbury school of carpentry. … the finials depict a warrior and his lady.”

Across the street is Ireland’s Mansion. “This was described by Sir Nikolaus Pevner, the 20th century writer on art and architecture, as the ‘Grandest timber framed house in Shrewsbury.’ This massive building, tall, broad, and symmetrical, was constructed in 1575 for commercial purposes by Robert Ireland, another wealthy wool merchant. It was three different houses, with shops on the ground floor, offices above, and accommodation in the attics. Locals are said to have called it ‘Ireland’s Folly’ because of its immense size. It has four projecting full height bays and four large gabled dormers.”

“This is a good place to see cable carving at close quarters.”

Next stop was my favourite building on Pride Hill.

“Space on major commercial streets was at a premium and often shops were very narrow, but the owners made up for it by building several storeys and also by adding jetties jutting out into the street at both first and second floor levels. This very narrow timber-framed house is Thornton’s. “This probably was a medieval shop with a single chamber above.

“The decoration on this building is interesting: under the first floor window is a design of cusped concave lozenges and the bargeboards are original, with damask work decoration. For some reason, the gable has been placed asymmetrically.”

Then, I was off to the library. By this point, one of the reasons the tours were taking less time is that I knew my way around!

The library used to the Grammar School, which “was founded in the reign of Edward VI in 1552, partly financed with money gained from the dissolution of the collegiate churches of St Chad and St Mary. The building is an amalgam of dates from 1450 to 1630 (main façade).”

I went into the library’s courtyard.

Across from the library is a big yellow house I’ve been curious about.

This is “a fine example of a late Tudor house.” It was moved from its original location around 1700.

I then headed to Windsor Place to see a long, curved building. It “is a side wing of John Perche’s house built in 1581. Its front is hidden behind the shops on Castle Street. This more natural brown and cream was the norm in Tudor times rather than the Victorian ‘renovations’ in black and white. … John Perche was another rich wool merchant and he served as bailiff four times.”

I then headed around the back of St Mary’s Church to find my next location almost at the corner of St Mary’ Street.

It is Drapers’ Hall, now a restaurant. “The trade in wool and cloth manufacture brought great prosperity to Shrewsbury in Tudor times and the Guild of Cloth Merchants or Drapers dominated other tradesmen like shearmen (finishers) and the mercers (retailers). The built this hall as a meeting place in 1577-78and added a second story in 1580. … The Drapers were a reliouss as well as a trade guild — The Brethren of the Holy Trinity.”

On my way to my next  destination, I saw something that drives me nuts and which I admire Amsterdam for not doing, changing the name of a long street partway.

My next stop was the original site of the Bradford House we saw above.

Heading back to The Square, I learned some interesting things about this Costa at the corner of Grope Lane. It was once the Cross Keys Inn. “It was restored in about 1990 and the beams were stripped of their black Victorian paint to reveal the original brown colour. The first floor [upstairs in the UK] is much the same as it was, but the restorers added a number of contemporary allusions in the carvings on the replacement bargeboards.”

I can’t see it, but one of those tiny figures is supposed to be Margaret Thatcher.

I went back through Gullet Passage to get to my next destination.

Right at the end of this passage is an unnumbered stop. This building is timbered on one side, but has a brick front, a good example of a Tudor building that was modernized in the 18th century.

The last stop is another place we’ve been. This is where I thought I would have done well to read the pamphlets ahead of time to save myself steps, but, hey, the exercise is good! Anyway, we’re back at Rowley’s House. “Today it stands in solitary splendour, surrounded by car parks, but originally it stood amongst a jumble of yards and passages, which may account for the unusual shape and positioning of the building. It was built in about 1590 and, since it has no chimneys, it is believed to have been business premises. It probably was used by William Rowley, a draper, brewer, and malster, as a warehouse. A little later, early in the 17th century, Rowley built himself a fine brick mansion attached to the timber-framed building. This is believed to be the first brick building in Shrewsbury.”

I was underwhelmed by the Tudor tour, but grateful to have that knowledge about some of the buildings I’ve noticed many times. But I found myself wondering if the next tour would be worth my time since I felt like I was just basically walking in circles around Shrewsbury’s core repeatedly (to the point that a couple of panhandlers felt a need to ask me if I was lost and needed help!). But I’d paid for the guide, so I figured I might as well go ahead.

Little did I know, I was minutes away from falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

To be continued…

10 thoughts on “Sushi at Umai and then the Self-Guided Tudor Town of Shrewsbury Tour

  1. My first reaction when I saw the sushi was, “They hardly gave her ANY ginger”! And then you said you leave it till last! That use about that amount of ginger on each piece, on top of the wasabi. Then I dip the whole arrangement into soy sauce. Delicious! I have a squeeze tube of wasabi and a jar of thin sliced ginger in the fridge as we speak.

    I seldom go out for sushi as Norma does not like it. Well, that is not entirely correct as she only ‘thinks’ she does not like it. She has never actually tried it. Anyway, I bring it home from the grocery store fairly often.

  2. Norma would probably like California rolls, it’s all cooked stuff. Me, I love sushi, even the sea urchin and the unagi.

    It sure is a pretty town you’re in. I love all the old buildings.

    • She might not like the seaweed, though. More for us! I’ve never had sea urchin, but I love unagi.

      Downtown is very pretty, isn’t it?

      • Years ago we went to a Haida wedding in Haida Gwaii where they served dried kelp with herring roe stuck to it (that’s how they lay their eggs). Delicious! I know you would have dove right in. The Ooligan Grease was another story though. They bury Ooligans (sardine like fish) in the ground until they rot and render into oil and then they use the product as a butter substitute. I did try it on a baked potato and it tastes just like little fish that have been buried in the ground for a few weeks.

        • I would have definitely tried the kelp and roe. Not so rush about the rotted fish.

          ” it tastes just like little fish that have been buried in the ground for a few weeks” You have no idea how hard I laughed at that.

  3. We were there years ago and I have two pair of lovely silver earrings and pendent that we bought right across from the old market place.

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