KATHERINE MACALISTER follows a hot tip to discover a menu of mouthwatering Thai dishes... and finds the results too good to keep to herself.

As I watched some poor unfortunate man wandering down Cornmarket complete with a placard announcing the opening of a new restaurant, I realised that you can shout from the rooftops about your latest culinary venture, but nothing works like good old fashioned word-of-mouth.

A friend or acquaintance whispering the name of some new eaterie that you must try is worth two in the bush, or at least two in your restaurant, and instantly piques your interest as you subconsciously file it away for future use. Such was the case with The Old Tom, which I had considered until then an otherwise bog-standard Oxford city centre pub next to the post office in St Aldate’s, and one I have wandered past a million times without even considering going in.

That was until a friendly whisperer informed me last week that actually they were doing very good Thai there and had I reviewed it? No was the answer but, like the faithful restaurant critic I am, I trotted off obediently to give it a go.

Trying to negotiate my way through the queues waiting for the buses on St Aldate’s was enough to give me an appetite and as the sun was shining I found a spot in The Old Tom’s ‘urban’ garden (now that’s an anachronism if I ever heard one), while wondering if it had all been a joke. The Thai menus proved not and my companion and I delved in with gusto ordering starters, soups and curries, to make sure we did it all justice.

A platter of prawn toast, prawn tempura, veg spring rolls and chicken satay accompanied by a delicious satay sauce and a chilli dip came first, then two soups: the hot and sour mushroom Tom Yum and the creamy chicken Tom Kha, both of which we lapped up in seconds. This alone would be reason enough to visit. But the glass noodle salad (yum woon zen £8.95), with prawns and chicken, which followed was perfect for the weather and came in a delicious spicy lime juice dressing, while I tried the pad med mamuang himmapan (a stir fry with mushrooms, spring onions, carrots and cashew nuts £6.95), which I managed to finish indecently quickly.

Bursting to the brim, we declined coffee and headed back out onto the busy streets, to be once more greeted by the now heavily sunburnt placard man, whose employers had obviously not cottoned onto the whispering concept.

So from one whisperer to another – pass it on.

* The Old Tom is at 101 St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1BT. 01865 243034