Jonathan Schofield is thrilled with the buzz and massive bowls of food

Streetfood. Streetfood here, streetfood there, streetfood everywhere.  

Rather unkindly in our utterly amusing (of course) New Northern Lexicon we defined street food as a noun and a verb.

'Streetfood, (1) n. Food never to be sold on an actual street but in a food hall. Usually with chips. Otherwise there's no profit.  

'Streetfood, (2) v. A verb to describe bored middle-class professionals who think they can easily prepare, cook and make money with, say, Lebanese/Levantine cuisine in a food hall after a two-day cookery school. Inevitably and very quickly they find themselves out of pocket. E.g. Jeremy streetfooded his savings away on baba ghanouj and now cooks beans on toast alone in his bedsit.'

Cruel. But it was meant to be satire.

At last in Liverpool's Renshaw Street Food Market we appear to have the real deal. This doesn't seem forced, it seems genuine. There is no real 'street food' tradition in say the way of India or Vietnam. True, back in the day there would be handcarts selling roasted chesnuts and maybe hot cross buns at certain times of the year but nobody would be shifting 'vegan sliders' with avocado and chimichurri or some such in a decayed industrial unit. 

Of course we might in Britain chomp on burgers from outside a football stadium when we need some stodge after four pints before the match on an empty stomach, but there's a sort of tacit agreement between the burger van owner and the customer that the burgers will taste as lovely as regurgitated owl pellets. 

Renshaw Street Food Market immediately feels right. 

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Dull on the outside Images: Confidentials

Indeed it's striking in every way aside from one. The outside. The architecture is non-architecture from the noughties. I'd be more specific but it's hard to pin down who the architect is with an internet search, perhaps they're too ashamed to claim the design as their own.

Once past the sheer brick wall the interior of the market is rewarding. It's a neon joy, a kaleidoscope of pink, purple, turquoise, yellows and greens in bubblegum shades. It's cleverly done, if such a garish ensemble of colours, including the bright displays of the stalls, can be ever be tasteful, then it's here. 

The place is clearly very popular as well. I watched people coming and going over an hour or so, young, old, all creeds and colours. There's a buzz of conversation, if there were music playing on my visit then I can't recall it, the scene was so entertaining. 

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Joyous on the inside Image: Confidentials

As we've written before, Renshaw Street Food Market introduced in 2022 some leading international brands into Liverpool, which includes Dagu Rice Noodle (300 restaurants in China, USA, New Zealand and Dubai), Nduo Sushi (over 3,000 shops in China, South East Asia and Australia) and Zhengxin Fried Chicken (over 20,000 shops around the world). There are 11 different food units and a licensed bar.

When we interviewed Xiaoyu Zhou, known affectionately as Joe to his friends and customers, he said: “We feel that the balance of cuisines on offer will be hugely popular with local clients and visiting tourists alike, who love to experiment and try out every type of cuisine. Now they will get the chance to sample any dish they choose from our vendors, which is wonderful for casual diners."

Is that balance right? 

Clearly the principal food accent is Far Eastern but with curious and awkward inclusions such as Turkish, Mexican and Italian stalls, although it's desserts only with the latter. Sticking with the Far East food theme in its totality might have been a better choice, that fits the look and the feel of the market better. 

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The buzz of conversation with a neon glow Image: Confidentials

I went to Pad Thai and received one of the best fish broths I've ever had. 

This was an absolute steal at £11.50. In other food halls, Thai or ramen restaurants, I'd expect to pay at least three or four quid extra. 

It was not only an absolute steal in terms of price but also in value. It's vast meal. The lacquer bowl it comes in would keep the rain off the head of a troll while leaving room for the beast to wear a very large pair of large headphones.

The flavours are fabulous, the appearance a chaos of colour. There's a fish fillet in there, squid of course, prawns of course and and fish balls, those weird but delicious minced up bits of fish turned into circles with a binding agent and dropped into broths to add heft. There were noodles too and herbs and spring onion and the heat was exquisite. You can choose from 'mild', 'medium' and 'extra'. The medium was still fierce and all the better for that. 

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The seafood broth, an absolute steal and absolute winner Image: Confidentials
2023 12 20 Broth At Thai Pad
Broth choices at Pad Thai Images: Confidentials

The broth was so gargantuan I had to go for a walk around the ruins of the bombed out church of St Luke over the road to build the appetite. When I returned I went for a dessert in Italy at Antonietta in the foodhall, there are very few dessert choices in other stalls. 

The nice woman at the stall explained that strawberry cheesecake (£6) isn't really Italian but they wanted to make sure they offered something for everyone. They probably shouldn't have bothered. This offering was fine, ok, nothing special, but oh dear had a soggy base. It tasted like something you might get from Iceland and not the one with the volcanoes.  

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Strawberry cheesecake from Antonietta Image: Confidentials

I loved Renshaw Street Food Market. 

I loved the atmosphere, the decor and the people watching. It seems a happy place. I might have filled myself up with, essentially, one course which isn't ideal for a review, but in terms of the general feel of the place I heartily recommend a visit. 

I'll be back with reinforcements early in the year. 

Renshaw Street Food Market, 85-97 Renshaw St, Liverpool L1 2SP

2023 12 20 Renshaw Street Food Market
Fantastic backwall in Renshaw Street Food Market Images: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 7/10

    Seafood broth 9, strawberry cheesecake 6

  • Service 4/5

    Smiling and efficient

  • Ambience 5/5

    Superb and easy going ambience that's a pleasure to sit in