When you first walk into Spice of Life what initially hits you is a tastefully fresh and modern décor; reminiscent of Thailand without surrendering to grotesque theming that so often plights Asian restaurants. I was very pleased with the absence of atmospheric blue lighting or, as the proprietor Eric adds, “flocked wallpaper”. Instead we’re presented with curvaceous glassware, heavy cutlery and a restrained aesthetic – bearing the hallmarks of a well-constructed restaurant.
The first page of the menu reads, “Thailand is the land of smiles”. Head chef and restaurateur Joy didn’t disappoint, her grin was perpetually ear to ear. Her light-hearted and warming character is a testament to her tenacity, those who have spent time working in hospitality will know that sometimes a smile seems harder to achieve than first place at Sandstorm. Smiles, as the cliché goes, are contagious; within moments I find myself beaming back at Joy.
To start I went for the chili beef. Tender steak strips, floured, and flash-fried. The result was a crispiness that gave way to tender meat. It was glossy, sweet and heartily portioned. Fresh sliced red chili and sautéed onion added a bang of heat and an extra dimension to the texture. Mildly bitter undressed salad leaves freshened the palate for the next course. My dining partner, a vegetarian (I know), went for the vegetable tempura served with sweet chili sauce. The veg kept its bite whilst the batter was light and crisp.
My option for main course, a chicken ginger stir-fry served with sticky rice, arrived on a sizzling plate. Temptation dictates when we see something is hot we touch it, just to see how hot it really is. The sizzle coming from the sizzling plate certainly put temptation to rest.
What didn’t rest were the billowing plumes of steam carrying piquant ginger and the penetratingly gorgeous aroma of fresh coriander with it. The side effect of course was a revitalising mid-meal facial. I went medium on the heat, it was fiery but measured well so it didn’t hit the back of the throat. The rice was sticky, but a little dry. It was a good plate that hit those five tastes we look for in Thai food; sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and heat.
On the recommendation of the affable Maddy who waited our table, we went for the coconut and pineapple ice cream from the concise desert menu. The coconut scoop was rich, deeply freshening and brilliant white, and the pineapple was smooth textured, sweet and offered a little fruit acidity as contrast. It could’ve done without the chocolate sauce zig-zagged across the plate and the hundreds and thousands. This is a restaurant people, not a five year old’s birthday bash at the parish hall.
The menu is extensive. It includes chef’s specials and set menus alongside noodle, curry and stir-fry dishes. The express lunch menu served between 11-2:30pm is healthy and reasonably priced – a good spot for a business lunch or for those who don’t have to rush back to the office with a sandwich from Costcutter.
The drinks menu is the usual fare, a Jack Rabbit merlot is designated house red, with a choice of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot grigio for white, all priced at £12.75. Wines then range upwards to £27 a bottle. Asian lagers including Tiger are also on offer.
Behind the scenes Spice of Life has a resounding communal feel, Maddy a very amiable young women was kept on after the former tenants Brazilian meatery Rio’s closed. The name Spice of Life was chosen jointly, nominated by Maddy, who incidentally also put her own artistic stamp on the interior design.
Joy was born and raised in Thailand and developed her passion for food as a home cook. When she moved to Jersey she took up work at Thai restaurants, including the gold standard Dicq Shack and honed an ability to work a professional kitchen. From there she met Eric, a semi-retired IT entrepreneur who decided Joy was a good investment.
Spice of Life is at a fantastic point for such a young restaurant. Despite being Joy and Eric’s first foray into the restauranting business it’s reassuringly well run, looks modern without the sterility, and has built a solid foundation upon which to carve out a name for itself amongst Jersey’s best Thai restaurants.
In a near saturated market I thought another Thai restaurant was the last thing that Jersey needed, but after visiting Spice of Life I think it’s earned its spot.