OUR Minster city is rightly world-renowned for the quality of its street entertainment.

That reputation wasn’t garnered, however, at 7.30pm on a Thursday night in Goodramgate.

Having made a reservation more than a week in advance for the Happy Valley Chinese restaurant, we were thoughtfully given a table next to an open window on the cosy landing area of the 14th-century building, which is part of the oldest surviving row of houses in York.

The fresh air was welcome on a humid night typical of this summer, and the strains of “With or Without You” from a Bono impersonator, playing live music at the adjacent Old White Swan pub, was pleasant enough too.

But, otherwise, our table had a good view of the Bonmarché ladies’ clothing store opposite and people watching amounted to seeing one poor fellow rooting for cigarette tabs in a bin and, later, the police scoffing a takeaway in their van on double yellow lines!

There is, of course, little wrong with “no frills” restaurants and, if the food is excellent, it can generate a simple charm.

On walking into Happy Valley, the pot-washers can be seen busy at work in the kitchen to the left and it would be a surprise if the lay-out of the premises itself has changed much since Tudor times.

There is a quaint cottage feel to the place, with four tables positioned on the landing, and more available in an adjacent room.

Feeling thirsty, I opted for a Tsingtao bottled lager and the Chinese beverage was really refreshing.

It complemented the complimentary prawn crackers well, as we decided on our choices from the £21.50 per person, four-course set menu.

The first course was soup and I decided on Peking Hot and Sour, which left a real satisfying warmth in the throat, and had a good consistency with plenty of meat, noodles and vegetables.

Nikki, my wife, went for Chicken and Sweetcorn and was also pleased, while both portion sizes were generous.

The other soup option on the Set Menu was Crab Meat and Sweetcorn.

There were no alternatives for the next two courses with a sharing Mixed Starter platter followed by a quarter of Crispy Aromatic Duck.

The platter was plentiful for two with the highlights well-packed spring rolls, nicely-seasoned seaweed and the succulent salt-and-pepper spare ribs, which were topped with chopped pepper and onion.

Less impressive were the over-greasy and slim-sized Prawn Toast and the barely-filled Wontons.

It was also disappointing not to have a hot towel or finger bowl to dip our digits in, while there was no cleaning of the tablecloth in between courses, other than one member of staff starting to pick food up with her fingers before giving that up as a bad job with half of it left behind.

The Aromatic Duck, meanwhile, was well-cooked and not as fatty as it can be, while the Hoi Sin Sauce was thick and tasty,

But the course was spoiled by the overly-floury pancakes, while the serving of spring onion and cucumber was a little stingy.

We could then select two of a strong variety of seven dishes for our main course, which were served with Young Chow fried rice.

Regrettably, we were not offered chopsticks with our food, which was also to be eaten off plates rather than from bowls.

The portion sizes were big, meaning we could both enjoy a good amount of each other’s choice.

My Sizzling Beef with black bean and garlic sauce did, indeed, spit impressively when it was spooned on to the serving pan.

The meat was again succulent, but the sauce was a little bland.

Nikki had Chicken and Cashew Nuts, with another generous amount of meat and the cashew nuts perfectly toasted.

The rice, served in a red Tupperware bowl, was nicely fried with lots of pork and prawns and more than enough for two people.

We couldn’t eat it all, conscious of the need to leave a little room for dessert which, as in most Chinese restaurants, was typically limited to a fruit fritter, ice cream or both.

I went for a pineapple fritter with ice cream and was pleased with two generously-sized rings, which were tastily battered and doused in the right measure of syrup.

The ice cream was neither great or poor – just ordinary.

Nikki felt the same about her banana fritter.

Overall, our meal had been OK and, at £59.40 for the Set Menu for two people, three drinks and a couple of desserts, didn’t inflict too much wallet damage.

But we both left feeling that if Happy Valley is the second-best Chinese restaurant in the city centre, should Trip Advisor be trusted, then there is a rare gap in the culinary market within these famous walls.

Happy Valley, 70 Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LF

Phone 01904 654745

Food: Hit and Miss 3/5

Service: Room for improvement 2.5/5

Ambience: Unpretentious 3/5

Value: Decent 3.5/5

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press