Smiley is just past Murphy's bar, down a rather bleak side road called Elgwazat St, opposite the Nile Palace hotel at the southern end of town. From the outside, the restaurant is just as unappealing as its surroundings. The backlit signs and menu put you in mind of a Wimpy or McDonalds. We hesitated to open the door, expecting to see wipe-down tables and to be offered burgers.
The inside, however, bears no resemblance at all to the outside. A dozen tables are formed into two ranks in a long, thin interior boasting fresh decor, modern furniture and crisp clean table dressings.
The chairs have very upright backs with hollow centres that are not at all comfortable. The ceilings are high and the air conditioning is effective, so smoking at other tables disturbs non-smokers less than in some restaurants. Background music is not too intrusive and is sometimes accompanied by video on a large screen. At other times the screen has TV channels.
The menu is varied and includes a children's section. But be aware that the menu prices do not include a 10% local tax. This was not obvious from anything we saw, but 10% is added to the end of the bill.
Main course prices are in the higher range. The menu price of a steak works out about the same as 7Ways, higher than nearby favourite Maximes and in the Snobs range. Pastas and snacks are priced on the high side too, but soups and salads are more competitive as are local dishes, such as Tagine.
Inside Smiley restaurant
The staff are smart and service was swift, polite and effective. Ingredient quality appears good and most of the food was well cooked and reasonably presented. Exceptions were the 'well-done' steak, which was barely dead and bleeding profusely and the meat in the tagine which could have been more tender. The steak was returned and re-cooked. It was fine second time around, but it should not be necessary to have two goes at a dish at these price levels.
Smiley is OK to try if you like to eat somewhere different each night and you are in Luxor for a long time, but it is not among the best in town. There are lots of restaurants around the cluster of hotels at the southern end of Luxor and new ones open regularly. With this level of competition a zest to try something different every night is the only reason to accept second best.
Review updated March 2010
Price comparisons at March 2010