The sweetest little Thai joint in Exeter: ifood on Sidwell Street
Exeter has a plethora of tasty eateries, from large national brands to local restaurants but I think that to experience good, nourishing fast food (Thai style) you need to head to ifood on Sidwell Street.
Sidwell Street and its surrounding roads are home to all sorts of international foodie delights, including two Asian and Polish supermarkets, noodle bars, Indian and Chinese restaurants. Back in the summer I discovered a little gem opposite The Odeon, it had no signage, but it did have a queue of people coming out of the door and full tables outside. We popped in for a Pad Thai. “It’s like being on holiday” (remember, this was back in the heatwave) said a man on the table next to me. And he was right; the combo of the heat, busy street, the amazing Thai food and I could have almost been back in Bangkok.
Fast forward a few months, Autumn has set in, the signage is now up, and the restaurant has a name. It’s called ifood. The offering is a simple selection of Thai inspired dishes from soup to stir fry. The seating is limited and the proprietor, Risa Pipatsirikajohn is chatty and welcoming, recognising us after just one visit.
Risa moved to Exeter from Thailand fifteen years ago to study a Masters in business and marketing after a brief sojourn in London she settled in Exeter with her husband and has since had two children.
Open since 3rd May 2017, Risa envisaged ifood as a place that sold good, tasty fresh food at a reasonable price. She says: “some people don’t want to go for a big sit down meal, they want high-quality fresh food quickly – that’s what we do”.
Risa leads from the front in her business. Working behind the counter, she knows everyone, welcoming many by name or affectionate nicknames. The students are fondly known as ‘her students’, she explains; “some of the international students come here and need support, so I give them advice, I am half Thai and half Chinese, so I have experience of both cultures – most of my international students are Chinese.”
Despite its very contemporary name, ifood isn’t very up-to-date with its marketing. With no social media, no website, no opportunities for home delivery, no phone number and an owner who doesn’t like self-promotion. In the current climate, you would think it might struggle. But seemingly ifood doesn’t need marketing, word-of-mouth, location and excellent management are enough.
I can’t help thinking that Risa’s mandate “Treat my restaurant as if you are going to your best friend’s kitchen” has a lot to do with the restaurant’s success.
• The restaurant seats 30 people.
• It is open 10.30-8.30 Mon-Weds / 10.30-9 Thurs – Sat.
• An average meal costs less than £10 pp.
• Favourites on the menu are: Bangkok Fried Rice, Cashew Nut Chicken, Panang Curry and (my favourite) Pad ThaiTags: eating out exeter, Exeter, restaurant, thai food