If you’ve not ventured past the Cowley Road Tesco’s you won’t have come across Red Star. Even if you have, you might not have noticed the innocuous front. On my first visit I ordered “what they’re having over there”; as much a testament to the hugely varied and appealing menu as well as my inevitable panic when perusing it. It turned out to be a chilli beef ramen, and I couldn’t help but compare it to similar offerings around town. Wagamama immediately sprang to mind. I’ve always had it in for the place (much to the chagrin of devotees of the chain) ever since they put chicken into my takeaway ramen rather than the prawns for which I’d paid. Now I’ve found a far better and cheaper replacement, and haven’t looked back since. Many visits later there’s still plenty of the menu I’ve got left to try, even if their ‘Specials Board’ seemingly hasn’t changed for the last two years.

Miscellaneous plates and bowls that look like they’re from a charity shop came full to the brim. Rather than needing to fish through lukewarm broth, my ramen (like everything else) was stuffed with flavour and full of fresh vegetables and beef (I hope). It’s as close as you’ll get to the street food in South East Asia those who gap year-ed there won’t shut up about. There are plenty of safe opportunities to dip your toe (or chopsticks) into the waters of Asian cooking if you’re feeling a tad conservative. The downright reckless amongst you can try a “dish for the bold and the brave to battle with” – a super spicy noodle soup. Those successful get a Polaroid on the Wall of Fame, complete with the inevitable streaming eyes and sweaty brow. My veggie friend was spoilt for choice, with far more enticing options than in most Western restaurants which seem to rotate their menu around the same four or five uninspiring choices (feta and pea risotto anyone?).

You’d struggle to spend over a tenner here, even with a Tsingtao or Singha beer as the main courses hover around £5.50. Food comes when it’s ready, even if it leaves the rest of your party jealously looking on. I’d rather that than have it sitting under a hot plate slowly congealing and overcooking. I’ve tried to make several of the dishes myself, pad thai, tom yam soup and the like but the price of obscure ingredients in the supermarket (and a considerable lack of expertise) means it’s far quicker and tastier to go here; they even do takeaways. If you’re a Cowley dweller or a fan of Asian food, if you haven’t already, you should pay a visit to Red Star.