MAXINE GORDON is lucky to get a table at a popular Thai restaurant in York

OUR table was booked for 7pm on Saturday night, but we were told it was needed back by 8.30pm.

So we knew this wasn't going to be a leisurely dinner. More of a get-it-down-as-quick-as-you-can-and-go experience.

With little more than 30 covers, Rice Style on Bishopthorpe Road is perhaps a victim of its own success.

People were queueing for their tables as the clock ticked towards 8pm, and the waiting staff seemed busier dealing with them, their takeaway customers and turning away potential diners than managing people like us who were actually having a meal.

It meant that although we got our starters and mains and a couple of drinks within a reasonable time, as soon as we'd cleared that lot we became the invisible customer. We did manage to flag down a waitress to ask for a dessert menu. But no amount of bobbing of the head and trying to catch a waiter's attention seemed to draw anyone back to ask us if we would like a pudding, or another drink, or a coffee or tea.

In their eyes, we were done. They were already thinking of the next sitting.

It is a small restaurant, so tables are close together. Anyone with a loud voice would be encouraged to dial it down a bit; unfortunately, the woman to my right didn't get the memo and I was glad when she left at 8pm and I could concentrate on chatting to my husband, Nick.

So in terms of service and ambience, Rice Style is not the best place for a relaxing or romantic meal out.

But how was the food?

Expectations were high. This is the sister restaurant of the popular Khao San Road in Walmgate, which is one of my favourite spots in York. The founder of these two restaurants is also behind the excellent Thai tapas place on Grape Lane, Phranakhon.

It was a lovely sunny evening and we began with a cool drink each as we made our selection: a Thai Singha beer (£3.50) for Nick and a refreshing G&T for me (at £3.55, this must be one of the cheapest in York!).

There are ten starters to chose from, including a platter of mixed appetisers. Among the more unusual offerings are deep-fried scallops, garlic spare ribs and duck rolls. Nick chose the unusual sounding por pia (£5.95) which turned out to be the rather ubiquitous veggie spring rolls. And very nice they were too, packed with deep fried cabbage, carrot, glass noodles and shiitake mushrooms, served with sweet chilli sauce.

I went for an old favourite from Khao San Road: deep-fried soft shell crab (£6.95) which appeals to my childhood liking for anything deep-fried (a hangover from growing up in Scotland just yards from a chippy). This is a perfect combination of textures – the crunch of the batter, with a soft, squidgy centre. It doesn't really taste of crab; most of the flavour comes from the sauce, in this case a sweet chilli mayonnaise. At Khao San Road, I've had it with a fiery wasabi mayo, and much preferred that.

The menu also offers a selection of soups and salads, rice and noodle dishes, curries, and chef's specials.

Most of the dishes are flexible, allowing you to select a certain noodle recipe, or a curry, and your choice of protein, from chicken, beef, belly pork, tofu, king prawn or mixed seafood, roasted duck or sea bass.

One of Nick's favourite dishes is pad Thai, so he was pleased to see it on the menu. This is a heavenly heap of slippery glass noodles interwoven with bean sprout and egg and topped with crushed peanuts. Ordinarily, Nick would have this with chicken, but chose sea bass this time – the more expensive option at £14.95.

It was nicely presented on an earthenware platter, with a salad garnish on the side and a wedge of lime to squeeze over to make the flavours dance even more. If you like your food savoury, this is one for you. The sea bass fillets were nicely cooked; firm on the outside, succulent beneath, their delicate flavour not overwhelmed by any of the other ingredients.

If there was one complaint it was that it seemed a small portion. Nick said it was fine, but he was hungry later that evening.

My go-to dish at Khao San Road is the panang curry with chicken. It is consistently good and would be the thing I would choose for my last supper. It's a thick, red curry, bursting with the three flavours that make Thai food so delicious: coconut, chilli and lime.

But I was determined to try something new, so picked from the selection of six signature dishes. I chose nam makham (£16.50), which sounded exciting: jumbo prawns with spicy garlic and tamarind sauce.

It came with a side portion of rice – which was surplus to requirements as there wasn't really enough sauce to eat with it.

The focus of the dish were the prawns which were big and juicy. They had been deep fried in their skins, so I had to break through all of that to get to the pink meat. But when I did, it was worth it.

However, as with Nick, there wasn't a lot of eating in the dish, and unusually, I felt I could manage a pudding.

It was unfortunate therefore that we couldn't get the attention of the waiting staff, otherwise I would have told you all about the banana roll with ice-cream. Hopefully, it comes deep fried.

Rice Style

21 Bishopthorpe Road, York

T: 01904 848927


Food: good 4/5

Service: so-so 3/5

Ambience: rushed 3/5

Value: OK 3/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press