On one of the coldest nights of the year, the warm, friendly environment of Koh Thai could not have been more welcoming.

With its dark orange and red colour scheme, huge Thai sculptures and upbeat atmosphere, the restaurant in Poole Hill managed to be both lively and relaxed at the same time.

It was pretty busy for a weeknight, but this was before Christmas and the office parties were out in force. Yet there was still a cosy corner available for a more intimate dinner for two.

Koh Thai first opened in Boscombe in 2009 and the Bournemouth branch followed suit in 2011, with a third restaurant opening in Southsea at the end of 2012.

The tapas theme thought up by the owners is clearly a success, and it made for an extensive menu which took us a while to go through.

After some discussion with our friendly and knowledgeable waitress we finally opted to start with a few tapas dishes and decide on our mains later in the evening.

It’s this kind of “do what you like” ethos which gives the restaurant its relaxed, informal feel. You can even create your very own “set” menu according to how much you want to spend and what kind of foods you like to eat.

It’s such a common sense approach it made me wonder why all restaurants aren’t like this.

We started with the 24-hour ribs (£6.95), Koh’s own chicken satay (£4.95), Thai chicken wings (£4.95), Thai grilled pork (£4.95) and Thai sliced crispy beef (£6.45).

Each portion was a generous size and all the meat was deliciously tender. The ribs just fell off the bone and melted in the mouth, while the satay, crispy beef and chicken wing sauces were full of interesting new flavours and really made the dishes.

Worryingly full already (there was so much more we wanted to try!), we had a short break before re-ordering.

But it wasn’t long before our mouths were watering again and I chose my favourite Phad Thai (£7.95) while my husband fancied the Penang curry (£7.95) and a portion of sticky rice (£2.50).

The flat rice noodles were stir fried with egg, peanut, spring onion, bean sprouts and chicken. Surprisingly light, the dish was extremely tasty with more of the tender chicken and the peanuts adding a delicious crunchy texture.

Again, a generous portion, I was unable to finish it, but was delighted when the waitress offered to box up the remains for me, which were equally as good for lunch the following day.

My husband’s curry had a rich, thick sauce flavoured with green beans, coriander and lemongrass. It was declared a refreshing change from the more fiery Thai curries.

The sticky rice did exactly what it said on the tin and was, again, a new take on a usually fluffy side dish.

We were unfortunately far too full for a dessert, despite being tempted by the Belgian chocolate tarte, mango cheesecake and banana fritters.

To say we left satisfied would not be quite true, as there was so much more on the menu we wanted to try. I have no doubts we will soon be planning our return visit.

l Koh Thai: Bournemouth - Poole Hill, 01202 294723; Boscombe - Christchurch Road, 01202 914997