STEPPING off High Ousegate into the Ate O’Clock restaurant is a little like walking into Dr Who’s TARDIS.

Not because you feel primed for a spot of time-travelling, despite all the hands of the many clocks inside frozen in the same position – the clue’s in the title by the way.

But more because if, like me, you have passed the narrow entrance on hundreds of occasions during a saunter down one of York’s busiest shopping streets, it is surprising to find such a spacious bistro hidden away.

In fact, there are two dining options – the first is a substantial Al Fresco area which, sensibly in North Yorkshire, is subtly covered and boasts overhead outdoor heaters.

With my other half capable of suffering an outbreak of goose pimples in the Sahara Desert, though, we were always heading for the candle-lit indoor tables.

Low ceilings, exposed brick work, a wooden floor and cool décor also made for a cosy setting.

We turned up half-an-hour earlier than our reservation but were seated no problem even though the restaurant, with room for 100 people, was filling nicely at 5.45pm on a Saturday night after the races.

The drinks menu was full of variety, with 26 different cocktails to choose from, which were available as part of a two for £10 offer.

There were also 12 different gins and 19 wines, with my fruity and smooth 250ml Chilean Merlot representing decent value at £5.75.

For a starter, I plumped for Garlic Tiger Prawns served with Tomato and Chilli Sauce and Toasted Ciabatta and was really pleased with my selection, which came recommended by our friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic waitress, as I toyed over a strong selection of first-course options.

Some restaurants can be timid with such a dish, so it was great when the potency of the garlic and chilli hit my nostrils as soon as the bowl was put on the table.

Chopped spring onion also added to the strong flavour of the entrée and two good-sized pieces of bread soaked up the sauce, once I’d finished off the six juicy prawns.

Nikki, meanwhile, decided on the Pulled Pork Scotch Egg with Homemade Barbecue Sauce, which had made my shortlist too.

There was a generous amount of pulled pork filling between the egg and crunchy breadcrumbs and the sauce was nice and tangy.

For main course, I went for the 10oz Rump Steak.

The meat was tender, juicy and cooked medium as requested.

I also appreciated the steak’s size, feeling that I’d got an extra two ounces for my money, given the weight often offered on other establishment’s menus.

The chips were good too, but there were two disappointments for me.

First, the Blue Cheese Sauce that I chose as a paid-for extra lacked power, which surprised me given my first course.

It would have been better served with cauliflower than steak and couldn’t be distinguished from cheddar.

The second mistake was one I only realized later - the dish should have been accompanied by onion rings but wasn’t.

Otherwise, the mushroom was succulent and the greens fresh, but the oversight was really frustrating.

Nikki went for the Chicken Fillet Burger with Cheese, which was juicy and well-seasoned, with coleslaw that was tasty and creamy

For our final course, my Trio of Lemon choice saw a return to the standards set by the Garlic Prawns.

The Lemon Meringue was pleasingly bigger than I expected for a multiple-dessert dish and used ice cream with lemon curd that oozed in to the light and fluffy lemon cheesecake.

A chilled Limocello shot then proved an inspired digestif.

My wife’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte with Toasted Popcorn was also a perfect combination of flavours.

The richness of the chocolate was counteracted by the other ingredients.

With our eight-year-old daughter having tagged along, she sampled the Kids’ Menu, with main courses and desserts costing £4.50 each.

Deciding against Mini Burgers, Fish Fingers, Cheese and Tomato Toasties and Tomato Pasta, Ruby went for the Mini Steak with Chips and Carrots.

Instead of carrots, she was given cucumber, which hadn’t been made clear on ordering but, luckily, she’s a fan of both.

She also enjoyed her two pieces of meat and reserved her highest praise for the fries, which she declared were better than McDonald’s.

For pudding, Ruby chose Sticky Toffee with Ice Cream, while Chocolate Brownie was the only alternative.

This time, she enthused that the dessert was better than school’s, perhaps less of a compliment maybe than that made earlier, but she did save me a spoonful and it was excellent.

Aside from the main menu, there is a specials board at Ate O’Clock that included an offer of £34 for two steak meals and a bottle of house wine on our visit.

There is also a set menu available on all days other than Saturday.

Our final bill for the three of us was £81.60, including £9 for Ruby’s food and £13.75 on drinks.

Ate O’Clock, 13A High Ousegate, York, YO1 8RZ.

Phone: 01904 644080


Food: Oversights 3.5/5

Ambience: Cool 4/5

Service: Pleasant 4/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press