Rosa’s in Spitalfields is so well known with locals that unless you get there early it’s near-on impossible to get a seat, even early on in the week. Good thing, then, that they’ve opened up a second venue in Soho, giving Central Londoners the chance to see for themselves what all the fuss is about.
Rosa’s in Soho first appeared, albeit briefly, as the pop up restaurant Noodles, a venue created by the Rosa’s team in order to get a feel for the space whilst the furniture and kitchen was being put together off-site. Whereas Noodles was all about shabby chic – plywood tables and seats held together with cable ties – Rosa’s is more polished, without looking too posh. Beautiful carved American oak lines the walls in a kind of curvy wave pattern, every once in a while coming out to create a small booth or two, separating and giving privacy in what is essentially a very small space. The oak is topped with brass, the same material that decorates the walls in the form of plates, old school British caff style. An animal is carved out of each plate, which seems sweet at first but becomes funny once you realise that the cute little silhouettes – a duck, a deer – are the same animals that are on offer on the menu.
Although tiny, Rosa’s makes the most of its space with tables of two and four towards the front and pretty red lacquered-style booth at the rear. Downstairs offers more tables, topped with teak recycled from old school lab tabletops – complete with carved graffiti. Whilst the chunky red stools flank the tables upstairs, downstairs the seats are more traditional. Touches of shiny, glossy red are found throughout and the frontage is painted the same bright colour.
Despite just opening recently, Rosa’s reputation precedes it and the venue is pretty full, even for a weeknight. Although it’s a similar size to their Spitalfields location, the atmosphere feels quite different, still busy and vibrant but in a calmer, less hectic way. There seem to be more couples than large groups, perhaps due to the fact that there are fewer communal-style tables. Staff are sweet, always around and eager to help.
The menu is similar to the one in Spitalfields but with a few new additions. There’s plenty of choice with about a dozen starters, plus soups and salads, then stir fries, curries, noodles, rice and char grilled dishes for mains. Prices are between about £6 and £10 for mains, with a couple of more expensive dishes such as a mixed seafood curry and char grilled sea bass.
Signature dishes include a starter of veggie summer rolls (£5.45). Though served with sweet chilli sauce instead of the advertised peanut sauce, they’re fresh, crisp and light, wrapped in slightly sticky rice paper and packed with herbs, bean sprouts and great big coriander leaves. Tom kha soup with chicken (£5.40) has a good flavour, not too sugary of sweet, but creamy with a slight kick of heat. The chicken is soft and tender and the bowl is filled to the brim with mushrooms, big slices of red chillies and sharp, woody galangal.
From the choice of curries, Rosa’s venison curry (£10.50) stands out from the list. It’s a red curry, with thin strips of venison that soak up the tangy spices of the sauce, whilst chunks of pumpkin and pineapple add texture and sweetness. Ta lae pad cha (£10.50), a seafood stir fry dish, with green lipped mussels, scallops, squid and prawns, is well spiced with green peppercorns scattered throughout, though it isn’t unnecessarily hot. There are about two pieces of each kind of seafood and although they’re not the biggest scallops and prawns you’ll ever see, they taste perfectly fresh. One of the new dishes, broccoli in oyster sauce (£6.55), is a large portion, big enough to be eaten alone as a vegetarian main or split between two as a side. The broccoli is cooked just long enough so that it’s crisp and has a bit of bite, and the oyster sauce is hearty and rich.
Although there are no desserts at the moment, Rosa’s offers a selection of juices for £2.25 including mango and apple, coconut, orange and pineapple. Other soft drinks are about £2, although if you’d like something more interesting than soda there’s chilled lemongrass and ginger drinks (£2.95) as well as iced teas and coffees (£2.95) – the sweet, creamy Thai milk iced tea is definitely worth trying. Hot drinks include several types of teas and coffees (£1.95 - £2.95).
Alcoholic drinks at Rosa’s range from beers (£3.50 for a bottle of Singha or Chang) to spirits, liqueurs and Thai whiskeys. Six whites, five reds and one rose make up the wine list, starting from £13.95 a bottle. In terms of sparkling, there’s a £27.95 bottle of Moutard Grande Cuvee and a £49.95 bottle of Moet et Chandon Rose.
The Last Word
Rosa’s has set up a permanent home in Soho and the word is already out. Get in quick if you want a seat.