SYLVIA is a big fan of Thai Food; I’m not.

While I usually dictate our destination, on this occasion The Better Half chose and that’s why we found ourselves in Thirsk at a new-ish restaurant – Racha.

I freely accept my dislike of Thai cuisine is irrational for I like spicy food, I like aromatic and fragrant food and Thai food is all of those things. Sometimes it takes Sylvia to remind me of my foolishness – and a restaurant like Racha.

Open just eight months, it is tucked away just off the Market Place down Bakers Alley behind Nat West Bank. It was once Charles’ Bistro – reviewed here many years ago – and then the Twilight Café.

Early doors (6.30pm) on a Thursday evening, it was understandably on the quiet side but by no means empty.

From the outside in the gloom of Bakers Alley the light from the small Georgian windows emits a cosy, welcoming glow which isn’t entirely borne out by what you find inside.

The welcome from the staff – waiter Oli and owners Fern and Tom - is certainly warm but the décor is a little stripped down. It’s a long time since we reviewed it in the days of Charles’ Bistro but it rather looked as if the basic look dates from them. The starkness of the groovy filament lighting and the functional tables and chairs didn’t entirely dispel the slight sense that we had walked into a works canteen.

Oli – the politest of young men - brought us menus, two bottles of light, crisp and pale Chang lager and explained the chilli rating applied to all dishes – one chilli being pretty warm, two very hot, with three or more only for the very brave or foolhardy. Or you can choose to have no heat at all, you just have to say when ordering.

The heat settings were pretty straightforward for us (two chillis for me, one max for Sylvia) and so that did a lot of the selection work.

Sylvia’s starter of See Krong Moo (£6.50) was three well-meaty double cooked spare ribs cloaked in a sweet and sour garlic-pepper-honey soy sauce. Tender, sticky and lip-smacking they could only have been improved by the presence of a finger bowl to clean-up afterwards.

My Tom Yum soup with mushrooms was a sweet and sour but very aromatic (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal) broth which built up the heat in my mouth very gradually but ever-so surely, so that by the time I was half-way through it oral numbness was complete. The mushrooms could have been goats’ goolies and I would not have been able to tell.

The beer had gone rather quickly so we ordered a bottle of Albarino (£19.95) and its scented floral spiciness went down a treat with our food – a combination worth trying if you think drinking wine with spicy food is a waste of time. The taxi home was booked by the way.

Our main courses cranked up the heat a little bit more. Sylvia’s Sam Rod stir-fried chicken (£11.50) with red chilli and spring onion was probably between one and two chillis in terms of heat but she loved its sweet-sour sauce and the perfect timbale of jasmine rice.

My Kao Soi Gai (£12) from the short chef’s specials menu was a definite two chills – perhaps two and a half – and featured traditional egg noodles, chicken leg on the bone, beansprouts, pickled mustard, red onion and lime with a pile of crispy noodles on top.

When the frightfully obliging and solicitous Fern served the dish she said it was best to mixed up the crispy and the egg noodles. Which was sound advice for the texture contrast it provided but not so great in terms of the impact on the surrounding table, shirt, Sylvia and possibly some of our near-at-hand fellow diners.

The process of shovelling the crispy and soft noodles into my mouth served mainly to spray the sauce all over the shop. I don’t think I’m a messy eater but I excelled myself here. That said it tasted bloody marvellous – and very hot.

Having swabbed down the table, Sylvia and my shirt as best as I could, dessert arrived in the form of chocolate spring rolls (£4.95) served with vanilla ice cream, a sliced strawberry and some rather superfluous squirty cream. Very nice.

Sylvia finished her meal with a very hot (in temperature) latte (£2.95) and we emerged into Thirsk marketplace £70.35 lighter.

The return trip to Racha is already planned and I’m relishing the prospect of eating there again without the burden of having to let you lot know what’s like. Maybe I do like Thai food after all.


Racha Thai Bistro, Bakers Alley, Market Place, Thirsk, YO7 1HD


Open: 5-10pm Tuesday-Sunday

Disabled access. Lots of vegetarian and gluten/dairy-free options

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 9 Surroundings 6 Value 7