JOSEPH HOOK finds a little Thai gem on Eastcott Hill, where the food is definitely worth the wait

Smile isn’t the kind of place you stumble across, being, I’m confident in saying, the only restaurant on Eastcott Hill.

It also isn’t very big: there are five tables inside, providing seating for around 15, maybe more with a bit of creative space management.

It is, though, very good. You can tell that from the moment you walk in: it’s off-the-beaten-track location, simple furnishings and understated exterior haven’t stopped it being full on the night we go, albeit, fortunately, with space for us.

It’s only word of mouth that has got them there, and what we had was a meal that you would want to tell people about.

The welcome, particularly on a bitterly cold night, was extremely warm. Having settled on our choice of eatery on a last-minute whim, we didn’t realise that it was a bring-your-own (£1 corkage), so after sitting down and being handed a couple of menus, I nipped to the off licence for a bottle of wine.

We then set about ordering a varied selection from their extensive menu – the kind of menu in which there are few weak options, making settling on something appealing all the more difficult.

In the closest thing I have to a criticism of Smile, the service was a little slow. Actually, it was very slow – we were well into our first glass of emergency wine before our orders were taken, and making short work of the second before the starters arrived.

This minor frustration was dispelled, though, when we finally started eating – the freshness of all the food, evidently lovingly prepared from scratch, rendered the wait entirely explicable.

The wife and I had settled on three starters between us, to make sure we got a representative example. They arrived in their own time, not a problem as we were planning on sharing the lot.

To facilitate this approach, and to satisfy the wife’s painfully democratic approach when it comes to all things culinary, our wonton soup (£5.50) was split into two bowls, each presumably as delicious as the other.

It was fantastic, with the kind of freshness which doesn’t make sense in a soup that I assume has to stew for hours to be that flavoursome.

The solid, stodgy-in-the-most-satisfying-way dumplings stuffed with chicken and king prawns were just what we’d needed after a long wait.

Halfway through the soup, our other starters arrived. The chicken satay (£4.50) was first, with succulent portions of chicken breast skewered and begging to be dipped in the sauce.

Dipped, actually, isn’t quite the right word – because the sauce wasn’t particularly liquid. Instead, it came with huge chunks of peanut, all seasoned beautifully.

Still, these weren’t the highlight of round one. That honour goes to the dim sum (£4.75), a favourite option of mine, and possible the best I’ve ever had. The casing held a beautifully spiced pork stuffing, and they made for a particularly fulfilling mouthful – significant enough to quell the desire for the main courses to arrive.

Once they did come, the hunger came flooding back. The wife had gone for a crispy duck in tamarind sauce (£10.50), based on her principal of always ordering duck if it’s available. I, after much deliberation over whether I should order something different to what I always order, decided I shouldn’t, and chose pad thai. I opted for seafood (£8.50), because of my principle of always ordering seafood, etc.

Pad thai is always a favourite of mine, but it has never been this good before. The noodles were how I like them, a little sticky, still clearly individual. The garnishing ingredients – spring onion, bean sprouts and peanuts – were in the right proportion.

But most of all, the seafood was both delicious and plentiful. Normally, the mussels, prawns and squid in a dish like this are scattered around the edges – this time, I kept uncovering them hidden away inside. For a seafood lover, this was a blessing.

The duck was lovely, crispy on the outside, tender in the middle. The sauce was sweet, but not overpowering. It wasn’t too substantial, which we offset with a bowl of coconut rice (£2.75) and some seaweed (£2).

Smile was fantastic. Yes, the wait was a little long, but you could see why, and the food and friendly service were both unimprovable. Plus, it’s great value for money, especially as you provide your own drinks.

Even if it is stuck in an awkward location halfway between Old Town and the town centre, it’s well worth popping down to this restaurant. If it’s full, they do takeaway – and that will be exceptional too.

Smile Thai café & takeaway

28 Eastcott Hill



Tel: 01793 423868

Parking: On street, spaces outside Eastcott Studios if not open

Disabled access: Yes

Our ratings:

Food: 10/10

Choice: 10/10

Décor: 8/10

Customer service: 9/10

Main course prices: from £6.50 to £12.75

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5