Swelling on a 30 degree day in London might not seem like the best mix for a rich Thai curry in the smokin' Spitalfields area, but the Eastern climate and its patrons are never bogged down by the soaring temperatures when it comes to dinner, so why should we be? I've also heard that to survive in the heat, is to combat it with more.
Rosa's is a bright red nugget on the Brick Lane dining scene which makes it easy to spot, but the interiors crave a more simplistic feel. As with most Thai eateries in London that (in my opinion) really work, Rosa's humble and tight tables mean that not only is elbow to elbow dining to be expected, there's an authentic and casual feel to the restaurant that insists on grabbing bites, enjoying them and trotting on once done. While yes, the design is minimal, the wooden walls, dotted plates and rich white tiling (almost identically echoed in the basement space downstairs with some industrial materials thrown in for alternative measure), mean that Rosa's forces you to chat and it insists that you grab the menu, which we did.
The Food and Drink
Don't expect to be suprised by a restaurant like Rosa's, and don't expect to be dissapointed either. With such a classic and time-tested menu on its side, deciding what to have was easy, as this place pretty much already tried and tested favourites between my friend and I; it's more about finding out whether Rosa's can do those plates justice.
Kicking off with classics in the shape of fried vegetable spring rolls with glass noodles, and Goong Tod (crispy prawns) with a homemade sweet chilli sauce (£7.50), it's so easy in other place to get such simple and recognisable dishes wrong, but Rosa's didn't fail. Crisp, honest and with a flavour that was humble with a tart chilli edge, there's no compromise when it comes to flavours of the East here.
Listening to rumours, no visit to Rosa's would be right without a curry, so we opted for the Butternut Red Curry (£10.25) and the green curry with aubergine and prawns with a side of Khao Neaw rice and jasmine rice. The red curry was not only panged with assertive spices, the butternut was light and suitably fluffy for such a stern vegetable in amongst further dashes of zucchini for another rich, vegetable edge. The prawn curry was the same, as the green curry while firmer with its spices, promised palate relief in the shape of hunking prawns and bamboo shoots. While all this was set alongside a bottle of house white, their cocktails added a modern twang to their clearly reliable Thai edge. While the Blackberry and Tamarind Punch was casual, came light with help from chamomile and a friendly dose of Havana rum, the stand out flavour came from the Ginger and Lemongrass Fizz (£7.50); offering out a tart and Thai basil option that while almost medicinal in sorts, still stayed fresh and lip-smacking.
A lot of people might feel cramped in a restaurant like Rosa's, but I think those people know nothing about what makes a casual restaurant so fun. Often i've found myself in a restaurant where the atmosphere is stumped with space, but the intimacy of Rosa's pretty much gave it life. Not only did the table next to us ask about my nose ring, insist on a stomach churning plane story and even say goodbye (sounds simple, but manners and a friendly acknowledgment go a long way), it seems the same with all tables as the space pretty much helps you interact throughout the night; unless you're super tight with your talk, you'll really like this.
In my opinion, Rosa's is yet another winner on the London casual dining scene. Not only should you count your lucky spring rolls with the fact that there are quite the bunch spotted about the city, Rosa's is a charming restaurant that's insistent on giving guests a meal that doesn't droll on, but makes dining decisions a social affair, and gives authentic Thai dining the nod it deserves.