Take a glimpse into the delicious and sincere world of Rosa’s Thai, available across six splendid establishments in London. Read on to find out exactly what we think of the crowd and our favourite dishes.
In three words: Relaxed, Sincere, Delicious
The Lowdown: Angel has a new hangout spot, as Rosa’s Thai opens its latest restaurant in the heart of Upper Street. For anyone not familiar with the superb and oh-so-fragrant dishes conjured up by Saiphan Moore and her British partner Alex, then here’s a brief summary.
Rosa’s started life as a modest street stall in the hurly-burly of Brick Lane in 2006, as the husband and wife team made it their mission to deliver fresh Thai food with a few modern twists. Two years later and the first Rosa’s Thai Cafe was opened in Spitalfields, where they continued to gain a loyal following for their authentic and tasty dishes.
Whatever their secret, it seems to be a recipe for success. There are now six establishments in London, bringing their mixture of honest cuisine, paired-down decor and warm service to those hankering after some delicious Thai meals.
Location: Upper Street in Angel – that glorious string of brightly lit bars and restaurants, where revelers spill out onto the streets and one always feels as if they are on holiday abroad.
The Occasion: When you want to be sure of some darn decent food that is always going to satisfy your Thai cravings. Rosa’s is the kind of place you can just drop into (reservations aren’t usually necessary) and grab a bite to eat without feeling the need to be dressed up. It’s great for when you want to eat with a group of friends, or the smaller tables and relaxed atmosphere make this a perfect casual date location.
Decor: No wooden panelling and pictures of floating markets here – Rosa’s is contemporary and energetic. Pale fittings give it a clean air, while navy leather booths add style. There are special dishes and tasty-sounding cocktails chalked on the walls, and an open kitchen at the back. We thought of it like cantina-meets-chilled-beach hut.
Atmosphere: Chilled and charming – everyone here is very friendly and the leisurely surroundings make it the ideal pace to unwind. Beaming waitresses are on hand to answer your questions, and there’s no standing on ceremony. Which is good, because as soon as that food arrives you’ll want to tuck in…
Culinary Concept: Rosa’s offers Thai food with a modern twist. Just smelling the air will have you hankering for the spices of Asia, and if you’ve ever travelled in this region then the scents will be all too familiar. There is a huge selection, with various starters, salads, soups, grills, curries and stir fries. As well as the classics we were also entranced by the Black Pepper Highland Venison, and the Seafood Mousse in Butternut Squash.
What we tried:
We started off with Gai Hor Bai Teay – that’s marinated chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves. They arrived like little gifts – chunks of white meat marinated to a dusty, ochre colour that exploded in a taste of lemongrass in the mouth. Half the fun was unfurling the crisp Pandan leaves to get at the treasure within, and was well worth the wait popping it into our mouths and tasting Thailand. We accompanied it with spring rolls – gratifyingly plump, they were packed with glass noodles and vegetables all encased in a golden pastry that flaked into shards against our teeth. There’s nothing worse than a greasy, flaccid roll, and these ones blew any such things out of the water.
It seemed almost impossible to choose a main, but the Pork Chilli & Holy Basil Stir Fry caught our eye. The colours alone could have sold it- emerald green long beans nuzzled against vibrant red chills, all coated with a shimmering and rich sauce. There was a definite heat to the dish, (watch out for rogue chillies going down the wrong way or you may find your eyes streaming…), but the succulent, slightly sweet pork worked fabulously, and we soaked up the best of the juices with a bowl of fluffy and comfortingly sweet coconut rice. The Pad Thai also proved that they’ve aced the classics – plump prawns nestled amongst peanut-speckled noodles in a dish that will bring nods of approval to any fan.
And we highly recommend finishing off with a dessert of ice cream. Their coconut variety is like a cool breeze on a stifling day, and the quality makes it obvious that it’s homemade.
For next time: There was simply loads that we wanted to try. Rosa’s special of Pineapple Fried Rice with raisins, cashews and seafood is famous, while her Green Curry Spaghetti sounds amazing. We’d also love to give the Pla Yang a go – grilled sea bass with fresh chilli sauce and cooled steamed vegetables. Yum.
Veggie delights: Rosa’s caters superbly for vegetarians, with a plethora of exciting dishes for them to tuck into. There are tofu versions of nearly everything, while the Pumpkin Red Curry and Stir Fried Aubergine in Yellow Bean Sauce stand out on their own.
Best of the booze: There’s a concise wine list, but it delivers, with some fresh whites and robust reds that put to rest the association of bad wine with Thai food (and we’ve had some!). For non-drinkers the chilled lemongrass and ginger drinks look intriguing, but our eyes were really caught by the cocktail menu. Find cheeky twists on classics like the Chilli Cherry Collins and Sweet Thai Basil Smash – definitely worth giving a go.
Fun Fact: Rosa’s gets its name from the cafe that used to occupy the site, retaining the charm of original English culture with the fresh influence of Bangkok. Now food lovers can still dine at Rosa’s, but with a fantastic fusion of East meets West!
Overall: With the dining world of London a pretty intimidating affair to get into, making one restaurant work is impressive. So the fact that Rosa’s Thai has bloomed to six venues in only nine years shows something is being done right. This is no doubt due to the fact that the couple puts themselves in the diners shoes – people want delicious, authentic food in a surrounding where they can relax and simply enjoy the aromatic delights on offer. And voila – visit Rosa’s once and it’s likely you’ll be making yourself a regular before very long…
6 Theberton Street, Islington, London, N1 0QX
+44 (0) 20 3393 2482