Bangkok meets London with a Zing – Rosa’s Thai Cafe

We had heard of and read reviews about Rosa’s many times before (they were all exuberant), but had always shied away from giving it a try, because of the fact that there was more than one of them around, placing them, in our minds, in the vicinity of chains like Wagamama, Itsu, or Pizza Hut. We normally try to avoid chains at any cost, preferring a dry two-day old sandwich from the corner store to a three-course meal at a chain restaurant, but man are we glad that we made an exception for Rosa’s. What a truly great experience.

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The story behind Rosa’s is inspiring. It all started with a small food stall in Brick Lane in 2006, then moved into a former greasy spoon called Rosa’s in Spitalfields. Today, English husband and Thai wife Alex and Saiphin Moore own and run further Rosa’s Thai Cafés in Angel, Carnaby Street, Chelsea, Soho, Stratford and Victoria and are looking into opening two further cafes in Shoreditch and Brixton later in the year. They run a blog and have published a highly successful cooking book. Tip to the hat.

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We tried out the restaurant near Victoria station and loved the atmosphere, which, despite the lack of space, the noise, the hustle and bustle, the people queuing for their seats, somehow managed to maintain a pleasant, even calming, relaxed café house atmosphere. The bright interior with large windows combines a lot of wood with white walls and has a modern touch to it, like it could be in Hipster town in Hoxton Square.

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Service was reasonably quick (20mins and we had the plates on our table), considering how busy it was, and we were very impressed with the food, which had a very authentic Bangkok touch to it, with regards to the traditional vegetables, herbs, spices and other ingredients used (and I stayed in Bangkok for four months in 1998 as part of a trainee program), but at the same time felt fresh and new and modern, can’t really put down how they achieved this, probably not by a small measure because of the modern environment and the way in which the food was served, the ingredients mainly being sourced closer to home, and they did also Westernize the recipes a bit in that the food was less spicy than expected and exotic flavours less prominent than they would be at a street stall in a side street in Ratchaprasong.

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As starters, which arrived (on our request) with the two mains, we had Sai Oua (aromatic, spicy, yellow homemade grilled sausages from the north of Thailand) and Thai Beef Salad (Yum Nuer Yang, char-grilled sirloin on spicy Thai salad, served with mint & chilli dressing), both very delicious.

As mains we each had a whole seabass, prepared in slightly different ways, but both grilled and with plenty of traditional salad and vegetables on the side, quite spicy and with strong flavours.

The menu varies and is much bigger for dinner than for lunch. Do book in advance, preferably for dinner.

We’ll definitely be back soon.

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