Will this York tapas restaurant get the thumbs up from our reviewer MAXINE GORDON?

I HAVE a bit of a love hate relationship with tapas.

What I love about ordering an array of small plates of food is the fact you can taste lots of different dishes in one setting.

But sometimes I hate the sharing aspect of it: especially when one of the dishes turns out to be the best and everybody dives in, leaving you with only a tiny spoonful of it – and then facing a table load of food less appetising.

It can also work out more expensive too. Waiters like to recommend everybody order three or four dishes each, and the bill can soon mount up. It can seem poor value, especially if you feel you only had a teeny forkful of something tasty.

So I was wondering which side of the divide I'd come down at Ambiente, the tapas restaurant in Goodramgate. It has a sister restaurant in Fossgate and the team also runs The Press Kitchen in Walmgate. I first visited this restaurant when it was in Malton and remember having some of the best tapas I'd ever had outside Spain. Despite eating at the York restaurants, nothing had ever quite matched that height. Would tonight be any different?

I had booked a table and turned up on Saturday night with my husband and teenage daughter in tow, who is vegetarian.

We were shown to an upstairs table by the window and liked the setting right away. The walls are painted a dark aubergine, the woodwork a deep smokey grey, making the place immediately atmospheric and perfect for a cosy dinner.

Service was very good: we had several waiters, but they choreographed their duties with skill, attention and bonhomie.

My husband and I ordered a bottle of the house white to start: Las Corazas, Macabeo (£16.95) which lived up to its billing as a "soft, easy-drinking dry wine with hints of guava and apricot". We had a jug of tap water for the table too.

To begin, we all tucked into the Mediterranean vegetarian platter (£12.95) – one of four sharing platters on the the menu (the others being cured meat, seafood and cheese). This was a great choice and would be perfect for three or four people to share as a starter – and good value too. Alongside three hunks of very good homemade focaccia bread were roasted courgettes, aubergine, artichokes and peppers (served cold), crunchy gherkins and silverskin pickled onions, salted almonds and butter beans in a tomato and herb sauce. There was a heap of rich and salty tapenade too, perfect for spreading on the soft, doughy bread.

The menu is really straightforward too, something that earns a big tick in my book. On one sheet of paper, the size of a placemat, you can see at a glance what's on offer. Dishes are divided into three helpful categories, meat, fish and vegetarian, which made selection much simpler.

Because sharing is the aim of the game in tapas restaurants, we decided to order mostly vegetarian fare, to include our daughter. We didn't regret it. We were warned that dishes would come in dribs and drabs, which was fine by us. Three came at first: patatas bravas (£4.75), slices of fried potato in a spicy tomato sauce; queso de cabra e hinojo (£5.50), a lightly battered goats cheese drizzled with honey and served with braised fennel and beetroot crisps; and berenjenas fritas (£4.50), aubergine fritters tossed in a garlic, mint and chilli syrup.

We tucked in and everything was delicious, especially the aubergine slices which had a light crunch to them and came coated in a sweet, sticky sauce. Goats cheese is not my favourite, but this dish won me round. The cheese was mild with just the slightest tang of sourness. Again the outside batter was light and just enough to give a crunch and add that contrasting texture.

The patatas were good too. Normally, they are cubed and fried, so having slices of them was a variation, and a decent one at that.

But the veggie dish of the day was the judías verdes (£4.50), a pile of green beans which still had their bite. They had tons of flavour too, having been pan fried in garlic with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.

Last to arrive was the dorada de Cádiz (£14.95), a roasted bream served with a medley of Mediterranean veggies and a salsa verde dressing. This is described as "a perfect centre piece for any meal whether it’s for a group or dinner for two". Our waiter asked if we would like it filleted in the kitchen and we accepted this – which meant the dish perhaps did not look as crowd-pleasing on arrival, but allowed us to immediately tuck in to the white, glistening meat. It was perfectly cooked; the fish succulent and fresh and flaking away at the slightest fork prod. Mixed throughout the platter were small boiled potatoes, olives, tomatoes and peppers, making it a meal in itself.

We were all full by this point – a good sign, as another drawback of tapas is that sometimes you can feel like you've not had enough to eat.

But we couldn't leave without trying a dessert. And we were glad we did. The banoffee cheesecake (£4.95) provided a final winning note: a generous mound of cheesecake topping with just a hint of banana flavour, on top of a crumbly biscuit base surrounded by a sweet and sticky toffee sauce. The combination was knock out, and we all walked home very happy indeed.

As for value, our food bill was a pinch above £20 a head – which we thought was worth it.

Ambiente Tapas, 14 Goodramgate, York

T: 01904 689 784

W: ambiente-tapas.co.uk

Food: Tasty 4/5

Ambience: Inviting 4/5

Service: Super 4.5/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals are paid for by The Press.