Ever-evolving Rosa’s certainly delivers
25 January, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
The menu at Rosa’s is approachable and well designed
OVER the past decade, the restaurant chain Rosa’s has become synonymous with Thai cooking – serving more than four million customers across London. It’s still owned by the same couple, Saiphin and Alex Moore, who started the business in Spitalfields back in 2008 and now operate 15 branches.
The Angel outpost, tucked off Upper Street, is a simple but uplifting space: acres of varnished wood; warm globe lighting; the stripped-back feel of a modern canteen.
In a sign of the times, they rely heavily on the takeaway trade – but this is a delicate juggling act. Rosa’s partners with Deliveroo, of course, but also encourages customers to place orders via their own website to preserve precious profit margins.
We went for supper, craving some punchy Thai flavours to fight off the winter chills.
The menu is approachable and well designed, with a new wave of vegetarian and vegan dishes to keep up with this shift in public demand. There’s a meat-free version of their popular chicken and cashew nuts, for example, made with tender chunks of butternut squash.
I enjoy their myriad clever touches, such as their “Eat Like a Thai” option – a crispy fried egg on top of your stir fry.
We roamed the menu widely: the Tom Yum soup is always excellent, with the correct balance of sweet and sour aromatics and a gentle warming heat.
A more recent addition are their “larb” patties – spicy minced chicken mixed with herbs, spices and toasted rice, to dip in a tamarind sauce.
Rosa’s have introduced a new range of cocktails too – riffs on the classics with subtle Thai flavours. We tried their Appe-Thai-Zing (get it?): like a long Tom Collins, with lemongrass, ginger and an infused sugar syrup. This was certainly refreshing but won’t linger long in the memory.
As ever, our dinner hit the spot with feisty spicing, fresh ingredients and swift service. Prices are average and quality is far higher than most.
What I most admire about Rosa’s is the founders’ entrepreneurial skills and incessant desire to evolve. At certain branches, the chefs offer hard-to-find regional dishes. In Ganton Street, they specialise in Bangkok-style street food, such as five-spice noodle soup.
At Rosa’s Victoria it’s fiery fresh “Isaan” salads from the North-Eastern region of Thailand, such as a grapefruit salad with prawns, cashew nuts and fried tofu.
They even opened “Lao Café”, down near the National Gallery – perhaps the only place in London specialising in Laotian cuisine.
As a very young girl, owner Saiphin was already growing and selling coriander to her neighbours. By the age of 13, she had earned enough to buy her own motorbike and made deliveries to local villages. I’ll bet she is unfazed by the rise of Deliveroo.
• Rosa’s Angel
6 Theberton St, N1
020 3393 2482
• Rosa’s Carnaby
23a Ganton Street, W1F
020 7287 9617
• Rosa’s Seven Dials
26 Earlham Street, WC2H
020 3627 6716
• Rosa’s Soho
48 Dean Street, W1D
020 7494 1638
• Rosa’s West Hampstead
152A West End Lane, NW6
020 3773 1568