Tounge Thai’d | Rosa’s Carnaby, 23a Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BW
It has been a couple of years now since our honeymoon in Thailand. The bustling street markets in Bangkok are unforgettable, as are the, erm, smells! The breathtaking natural beauty of the Phranang peninsula was simply stunning, add the luxury of the Rayavadee resort where we had the standout meal of our trip, and you can imagine why this holiday is so special for us. Oh, and we were newly married too, that’s quite special.
Saff loves her Thai food, especially a green curry and is always banging on about the her favourite little unassuming Thai Cafe on Fortess Road, Tufnell Park. Now, as we live in deepest darkest Kent, when Saff gets the urge for Thai food we pop along to Marie’s Cafe just behind Waterloo station on Lower Marsh. By day it’s a tatty greasy spoon, by night is serves some delicious (and very cheap) Thai food. There is a restaurant up our road that claims to serve Thai cuisine, but we don’t trust it.
Back to the here and now. Carnaby Street on a wet, cold and windy late December evening doesn’t exactly conjure up images of the Andaman sea lapping the white sandy Phranang Cave Beach. But Rosa’s Thai Cafe‘s exterior had that warm, welcoming glow that just seems to pull you in. Once through the door our welcome was quick and efficient, maybe a little too direct and hurried – then again this is a cafe and turn around has to be fairly fast. The waiter motioned to us, pointing to a small table near a little drinks/prep area, ‘Two. Here!’ He said and ran off to deliver the bill to another table.
Decor was fairly safe, pale wood and shiny white tiles on the walls. Wooden tables, some with stencilled with clever doilies (take a close look and you’ll see what I mean). Downstairs had a slightly more industrial feel and a great view into the open kitchen. We wish we had been able to sit here, it adds to the experience of the meal to see the chefs dashing about through the pillars of steam and the flames from their woks.
The drinks menu was fairly safe too, wine from £17.50 a bottle, Chang beer £4 and spirits a reasonable £3.75. In hindsight we should have tried a Thai whisky (or Frisky as it said on the staff’s t-shirts) the Mekong with ice was a tempting £5 for a 50ml measure (or £6 with a mixer). We decided for an evening off the alcohol, I had a Chilled Ginger £3, served in a jug was sweeter than I expected but still refreshing. Saff played safe and ordered a Pineapple juice £2.75, she was hoping it would be freshly squeezed but we had the suspicion that it was from a carton.
The menu is extensive, nine sections including starters, soups, noodles and spaghetti, char grilled and stir fries, with at least one of Rosa’s Specials highlighted in red. We shared a couple of starters – Thai calamari £7, crispy squid topped with Thai herbs served with plum sauce. The squid had been cut into slightly unusual shapes with deep cross hatching and the herbs on top seemed a tad dusty. But the reason for this became apparent, when dunked into the sweet and sticky plum sauce it seeped into the deep grooves and released all the flavour from the herbs – delicious!
The other starter we shared was the Pandan chicken (Gai hor bai teay) £7.50, marinated chicken grilled in Pandan leaves. You really can’t go wrong with these leafy parcels of delicately spiced chunks of chicken breast. A word of warning though, its dipping sauce has a bit of a fiery kick to it. Both starters were brought to our table on a brightly coloured tin tray and served in Falcon style enamel dishes. Seems that no restaurant is exempt from using enamel crockery.
The main course would be the big test, as mentioned before Saff loves a green curry, she’s had hundreds of them. In fact when we first got together we would visit Thai Silk far too often to feed her addiction. But that was before we discovered London’s other numerous culinary destinations thanks to this lady, and when our We Love Food blog was just a twinkle in the sous chef’s eye.
So she ordered Rosa’s green chicken curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan) £9, all the usual suspects – aubergine, bamboo shoots and sweet basil in a spiced coconut broth. What makes Rosa’s curry different is that it’s made the traditional way, with less coconut, for a lighter more fragrant taste. The broth wasn’t as hot as other green curries that Saff’s had and the chicken could have been a little more tender. That said she still scored it a 6/10, which isn’t bad for her (I only score 8/10 at being a husband!). [Not true! I think you'll find it's 11]. Also if you choose the Steamed sticky rice (Khao Neaw) £3.25 as a side, please note it’s very, very sticky. Even the fairly thin coconut broth failed to un-glue the grains of rice.
I went for my favourite Thai dish too, a Beef massaman curry (Massaman Nuar) £11. Tender slow cooked beef with silk road spices (not THAT SIlk Road), halved shallots, chunky potatoes, cashew nuts and coconut. I loved it and soaked up every last drop of the rich, creamy sauce with some Steamed coconut rice (Khao Kati) £4. Coconut overload you may think, oh there’s no such thing! There wasn’t a dessert menu, or at least we weren’t shown one. Luckily we were full, so we would have passed anyway. Although there was the thought lurking in the back of our heads of popping into The Diner across the road for something sweet.
Overall, Rosa’s Thai Cafe serves up modern Thai cuisine at reasonable prices, especially considering its location. Saff has had the branch in Soho on The List for quite some time, there’s also one in Spitalfields and Westfield Stratford. Maybe the waiting staff need to slow down a bit, other than that Rosa’s adds that something a little different to the Carnaby Street/Kingly Court/Ganton Street dining scene.
23a Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BW
Telephone: 020 7287 9617
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 12.00pm – 10.30pm,
Friday-Saturday 12.00pm – 11.00pm, Sunday 12.00pm – 10.00pm
For bookings or food pick ups (starting from 6pm) call: 020 7287 9617
Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus