Step Down These Steps And You Might As Well Be In Thailand
Hands down, the best Thai food in Manchester
Good food is often found in the most unusual of places. You don't always need to pay a hundred pounds, be served by waiters in suits or have the finest cuts of meat.
One classic reinforcement of this theory is Siam Smiles, which is right in the heart of Chinatown. If you're really lucky, you might stumble upon the place by pure chance and end up having an amazing meal, but the reality is that 99% of people are more likely to wander past without giving it a second glance.
Siam Smiles is, first and foremost, a Thai supermarket – and given that the branding is poor, and the fact that it's downstairs, you'd struggle to imagine the culinary delights that are being prepared by their talented Thai chefs.
You'll sit down at small plastic tables with quite possibly the worst bright orange chairs I've ever seen. They really don't make it easy for you to love the place on first glance, but as soon as you open the menu, you start to get a sense of what the place is about.
I ordered a fish soup, with some papaya and shrimp noodles. I will warn you that most things in here are on the spicy side, which I love, but which could be off-putting to some. The friendly staff are great at walking you through the menu though.
My food arrived promptly and, as soon as the flavours started wafting up from the bowl, I was transported back to holidays in Thailand. As I starting slurping the liquid out of the bowl, I quickly realised that this was just about the most authentic Thai food I'd eaten on this continent.
Sitting there eating the awesome food alongside Thai families, being served by Thai staff, while watching people shop for mad Thai ingredients is an incredible feeling. As soon as you vanish down those little steps you're in another world. The steel skyscrapers and shiny windows of Manchester are long gone and you can almost hear the sound of tuk tuks and busy Thai traffic outside.
My two dishes came to £16 with a Coke, but I was just testing out as much food as I could. You could easily have a filling and nutritious lunch in here for less than a tenner.
This isn't so much a hidden gem, because we've all walked past it hundreds of times, but it is a gem hidden in plain sight – one you may not have noticed. Get down into that supermarket and get ordering, because the food will blow you away.
The View From Others
To add some balance to our review we thought we'd share some of the other reviews people have written about the place.