Writer Amanda David heads to Rosa's Thai Cafe to experience a fresh and spicy lunch as an antidote to the dark cold weather outside.
Much as I love the roast turkey, mince pies and cheeseboards that this time of year brings, I soon find myself craving something spicy, fresh and a bit more complex to balance them out. Thai food is my go-to cuisine for this – all the tingling chilli heat I need but also salads, crisp, crunchy and tossed in a vibrant dressing, to make me feel virtuous in a five-a-day way whilst still getting my flavour fix.
Clapham Junction is the latest London location to be graced with a Rosa’s Thai Café; in a world where the biggest of names are struggling to maintain quality and consistency within a chain, this is founder Saiphin Moore’s eighteenth restaurant in just over a decade – each with its own vibe and personality matched to the area but all unmistakably Rosa’s. This extraordinary achievement has much to do with Saiphin’s love and respect for the traditional dishes of her childhood and the very personal connection she still has with each of her restaurants.
We started our lunch with Thai Prawn Crackers, served with a peanut dipping sauce.
Dismiss all memories of the Chinese version dissolving Quaver-like on your tongue; these are more robust in both texture and flavour and magnetically moreish.
Then Sticky Tamarind Chicken Wings with crispy fried shallots and pandan leaves – sweet, sour, sticky, tangy and satisfyingly messy. I’m a savage at heart and love food you can pick up and eat with your fingers, there’s something very direct and connected about it somehow. We also had the Sweetcorn Cakes with sweet chilli sauce – delicious fluffy little sweetcorn and lime leaf fritters with a lingering red curry kick, perfect with the house-made chilli sauce.
Mains were Stir-Fried Flat Noodles with Beef and a Massaman Curry with chicken. Creamy with warm but gentle spices and bolstered with potato and cashew nuts, this curry would be ideal for those friends who are perhaps a little nervous of the usual chilli heat in Thai food. Rosa’s Special Sticky Rice, a cute little lidded basket of white and wholegrain rice with a distinct nutty flavour, was a great accompaniment.
The Papaya Salad – green papaya, shredded carrots, green beans, tomatoes, cashew nuts with a classic Thai dressing – skilfully balanced sharp, salty, sweet and spicy elements in punchy freshness that sat well alongside the other dishes.
For dessert we had the Affogato – a shot of hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream - always a favourite dessert for me as I don’t have a real sweet tooth (but am obsessed with coffee) and this seems to wrap a meal up nicely in one neat order. Rosa’s comes with the option to add a shot of rum, which admittedly ups the game somewhat.
We also had Mango and Sticky Rice – sticky rice and coconut milk served with half a sliced fresh mango, gently warm and delicately flavoured, utter comfort-bordering-on-nursery food and a lovely way to end the meal.
Congratulations to Saiphin and her team on another winner; I’m already eyeing up another of her restaurants, Lao Café, for the New Year.
Chatting Food Contributor: Amanda David
Freelance food writer, copywriter and blogger, dedicated to sharing news about London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and general wonderfulness. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
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