By Benjamin Joseph

Rice and Noodle Cafe has long been a student staple and hidden gem for the town, often packed with home and international students where word of mouth has ensured a steady stream of custom.

Rice and Noodle Café never seemed to make waves in the wider Huddersfield community with many people none the wiser to its existence.

The unassuming Thai street food café, which wouldn’t look out of place nestled on the Koh San Road in Bangkok, has been serving up punchy authentic Thai dishes in Huddersfield for over eight years.

Formerly located in the now-closed Queensgate Market, Rice and Noodle Café has moved to the Packhorse Centre.

The café has diversified and now find themselves on delivery platforms such as Just Eat. Though apps such as these can take huge cuts from small businesses, sometimes in excess of 35%, the move should open up their niche client base to the wider masses and hopefully increase their footfall.

Their new home is atop the Packhorse Centre food court opposite the former Burger King site. The entrance is donned with a bright green sign, Rice and Noodle Café in bold with a noodle bowl graphic for the avoidance of doubt!

Inside there is a service area, appropriately decorated with Thai flag bunting and traditional Thai paintings, ornaments and trinkets.

The name does not do the restaurant any justice because what is served out of this hidden gem is much more than rice and noodles.

It has some of the tastiest and most authentic Thai food you can find in the area and at an absolute bargain price, perfect for a weekend or working lunch.

The menu is broken down into Starters, Soups, Stir Fry & Noodles, Stir Fry & Rice, Curry and Rice. We opted to try dishes from across the menu to try and sample a range of traditional dishes.

My guests were my father, a self-professed fussy eater, and my wife – the polar opposite. That allowed us to cover a range of demographics in one sitting!

We ordered at the counter and were told to take a number and find a seat within the food court. The food court is bright, cold and clinical, quite different from the cosiness of their previous location and no fault of their own.

We peered into the old food court and street food area of the Packhorse Centre adjacent to the Rice and Noodle Café. Works are underway with an estimated summer opening. This will definitely improve the dining experience and hopefully bring better footfall.

The service is more akin to the café dining scene in Thailand. Despite being labelled as ‘starters’ food will arrive at the table as and when it is ready. This tends to be starters first, but there will be no break between starters and main as with the Western dining style.

The food comes thick and fast and this lends itself well to the lunch dining scene. This style of dining is also more authentic.

Thai food is traditionally eaten with rice and an array of dishes contrasting in flavour and texture to provide a full all-round dining experience. In traditional Thai dining style, we ordered from all corners of the menu.

The first “course” to arrive at the table was our drinks. I opted for a traditional Thai milk tea, and being acutely aware of the spice level to follow, I prepared accordingly.

It is made from a bright red (or green if you opt for the green tea) tea base with condensed and evaporated milk, served over ice. A little sip of the soothing and sweet milk tea helps protect you from the spice for the full meal.

The next courses to arrive in quick succession were “Chicken Satay” and “Fish Cakes.” The fish cakes are identical to those sampled whilst wandering through an urban street market in Bangkok, soft and fluffy minced fish seasoned with red curry paste, with some chunks of green bean for texture, far away from the Western idea of a fishcake, no breadcrumbs or potato in sight.

The chicken satay is marinated in turmeric and aromatics and grilled on a flat top to perfection. It is sliced thin but manages to stay moist and tender, served with a rich peanut and coconut satay sauce and some crisp iceberg to cut through the richness.

Now next came the main course for the resident fussy eater and Thai food-phobe – a big bowl of Guay Tiew Kai Nam Sui – literally translated as “rice noodle chicken clear soup.”

This is a rich and clear chicken bone broth with hints of aromatic coriander and ginger served with crispy wonton and fish balls (a tapioca-bound fish mince ball), a staple in any Asian household.

One of the beauties of the Rice and Noodle Café is their ability to surprise you. One of my favourite Thai dishes is papaya salad (Som Tum), an intensely spicy salad made with green unripe papaya, peanuts, and a spicy Thai dressing made with lime and fish sauce (Nam Jim).

Papaya salad is not on the menu but, as it is a favourite of mine, I asked and they made it for me! It was as any papaya salad should be, packed full of heat and with fresh crisp julienned strips of papaya. This was paired with a little bamboo basket of sticky rice to help stifle some of the fire.

The last two mains were shared across the table and consisted of crispy belly pork stir fry (Pad Ka Prao Moo Grob) and a spicy and aromatic pork noodle soup (Guay Tiew Kai Tom Yum).

The belly pork was beautifully crisp, stir-fried in oyster and soy sauce, lots of Thai basil, chillies, crisp green beans and red peppers, this was served with a portion of Jasmine rice and topped with a crispy Thai-style fried egg.

The menu says the crispy belly pork and Thai basil stir fry is a “Favourite of the Thai people” and I can understand why!

The pork noodle soup (Guay Tiew Kai Tom Yum) was packed full of flavour, intensely aromatic with kaffir lime, lemongrass and galangal standing out, this is muted and balanced by a dash of coconut milk.

The broth contained minced pork and marinated pork fillet strips, fish balls and a wonton wrapper crisp.

This is another personal favourite Thai dish of mine; it is essentially a tom yum soup packed full of fillings like meat and noodles and a warming dash of spice.

One of the unique elements of Thai cuisine is the ability to balance a dish to your preference. Though each dish is prepared well balanced to a general palate, each table has a pot of Nam Jim (lime, fish sauce and chilli dressing), peanuts, sugar and chillies to fine-tune dishes to your liking.

Rice and Noodle Cafe is a true hidden gem, hit by some unfortunate events in recent years but still persevering, and in my opinion, becoming one of the best eateries in Huddersfield.

It’s one of the most authentic Thai restaurants around the local area. There are some limitations: it is a daytime eatery, in a food court setting and is very much a relaxed dining affair, which doesn’t appeal to everyone. But the quality of the product and value for money is almost unrivalled.  

Bill for 3

2 x Starters

3 x Mains

1 x Salad

3 x Drinks


Rating out of five:

Food: 5 +

Service: 4

Atmosphere: 3