If you want to eat outside, the terrace at The Star Inn the City is hard to beat, finds MAXINE GORDON

GIVEN the fact that York is divided by a handsome river, there are few opportunities to dine out on the riverside.

A clutch of pubs and restaurants have claimed the cobbles by King's Staith, there are the terraces at the City Screen complex, and Dyl's tiny cafe/bar at Skeldergate as well as the outdoor veranda at The Tank & Paddle (formerly The Living Room) above Queen's Staith.

Just by Lendal Bridge and York City Rowing club you can sit outside the Perky Peacock (and thoroughly recommended it is too).

But eclipsing them all, surely, is The Star Inn the City with its grand outdoor seating area on the edge of Museum Gardens and overlooking the Ouse (and directly opposite the Perky Peacock!).

We booked online - which allows you to specify if you would like to sit outside or inside.

The forecast was great - a real Indian Summer evening – so we selected an outside table with confidence.

There were two of us and we were chuffed to have a table on the edge of the terrace with unspoilt riverside views. We began with an aperitif as we studied the menu, which under Covid-restrictions we were told we could take home with us because it would not be used again.

This is a limited menu - which as regular readers of this column will know gets a big tick in my book. Printed on two sides of A4, on the first page you are invited to take a pick from small plates, snacks, salads and starters, with the more substantial dishes over the page, including a 'Startlets' selection for children under ten. They even fit desserts on this double pager.

A limited menu does not mean a dull one. Anything but. And anyway, Andrew Pern, the celebrated North Yorkshire chef behind the business, doesn't do dull. Remember the hoo hah over Star's flat-cap bread basket? Well that was nowhere in sight on our visit.

We had a polite and friendly young waiter in a face mask look after us for the evening. He was charming, but did get our orders wrong. Twice. It was a case of dishes going to the wrong tables rather than the kitchen cooking the wrong meal, so it was quickly rectified. But if we got the wrong dishes, other tables did too. The Star Inn the City is one of the smartest places in town where people often go for a special occasion - so this part of service might need attention.

Apart from the waiters playing "dish swap" - our meal was pretty faultless, I am happy to report.

From the 'grazing' section of the menu, we chose the Mulligatawny Shetland Mussel Fritters - mainly because they sounded so unusual.

I've had Mulligatawny before, recalling it as an Indian lentil soup, so I guessed the fritters would have some spiced overtones. I love mussels, but have never had them in a batter. The dish came with a raita - a cool yoghurt dip commonplace in Indian cuisine. But this one was flavoured with black garlic, another novelty.

It all sounded intriguing - and when it arrived - the first thing I noticed was the dark colour of the dip. The yoghurt had turned a muddy brown - like a thick mushroom soup. Not the most appetising-looking, but if you closed your eyes, it tasted just like the creamy dip I'd eaten a zillion times before. And it was a perfect match for the mussel fritters which were tiny morsels of crunchy, squishiness, with just the right note of curried seasoning. At £6 for the small dish, you couldn't fault it.

My friend P chose the Oak Smoked Salmon and Dill Crumpets (£9) which was a perfect choice to eat al fresco on what felt like a summer evening. They were a good sized portion too: two springy and airy bases topped with generous folds of smoked salmon finished with caviar creme fraiche and pieces of preserved lemon. All the ingredients were top notch, but the addition of tiny strands of preserved lemon skin was a stroke of genius. They had a supercharged lemon flavour and really made each bite dance in your mouth.

The Indian theme continued to our mains as P chose the Tandoori Baked Fillet of Coley (£18). I would have picked the same but reviewing rules require we order different dishes to sample more of the menu. Duly obedient, my second choice was the Garlic and Thyme-roasted breast of 'Loose Birds' Chicken (£21), which didn't disappoint.

Packed with flavour, this was the sort of dish that demands you lick the plate clean (of course, I didn't - I have some standards!). The chicken, still on the bone, was meaty yet succulent, its autumnal essence enhanced by a thick, shiny and gravy and a smooth mash. I loved the scattering of broad beans over the top which were still perfectly al dente - and looked pretty.

P said her curried Coley was "knock-out" with its accompanying dahl, which starred coconut and summer squash, one of the nicest she'd eaten. The topping of a few sheets of pickled kohlrabi were a first for her, but got the thumbs up too.

For dessert, we halved a Yorkshire Rhubarb & Stem Ginger Cheesecake (£7). I love rhubarb and stem ginger and cheescake, so this had all the makings of a winner - and it was.

A great finish to what had been a great evening - they just need to watch their service.

Star Inn The City, Museum Street, York

W: starinnthecity.co.uk

T: 01904 619208

Food: Very good 4.5/5

Service: Needs attention 2.5/5

Ambience: Unrivalled 5/5

Value: Worth it 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press