Harden's survey result
The “lovely Thai food” at these reliable cafés is “impressively authentic given that they are a chain” – “excellent value” and “fast”, if occasionally let down by “iffy service”. Founded in 2008 by Saiphin and Alex Moore, who inherited the name of their first East End site, the group has 15 branches in London and expanded to Liverpool and Leeds this year following the sale of a majority stake to US investors. The couple also have two spin-offs, Lao Café in Covent Garden and the new Chinese noodle bar Hoh Sek in St Katharine Docks.
The “cheap and tasty Thai food” at this fast-growing chain “hits a decent standard despite its many branches” and its delivered by “friendly, speedy staff” making them “a good stand-by option”. Founders Saiphin and Alex Moore, who opened the original branch in 2008, have recently sold a majority stake to US investors TriSpan.
This “hectic” and “cheerful” Thai café chain has grown apace over the years. Compared with the early days (when “the original E1 branch set the standards for the roll-out”) its spicy fare is probably “nothing to write home about”, but most reports still say it’s “tasty and fresh” and “really well priced”.
“Does what it says on the tin!” – these “reliable” cafés are a trusty source of “tasty, unpretentious Thai food”, with the “heart-of-Soho” branch by far the best known.
Down Brick Lane way, but don't feel like curry? - head for this handy new Thai canteen.
With the global economy about to implode - we visited a couple of weeks before this review was published! - it seemed a good time to head for the City to catch up with an old chum, nowadays head PR for one of the financial titans. In keeping with these straightened times, we opted for this new budget Thai, just a stone's throw from Brick Lane (near fashionista favourite the Truman Brewery).
The first impression was of deafening noise, with much of the communal seating taken up by a single party of fourteen. Not that they were being particularly raucous, but the plain decor is extremely echoey. Thankfully they finished soon after we arrived, but it was still unfortunate not to be able to communicate during the first quarter of the meal.
The room - decorated to just above 'canteen' level - is plain, relieved somewhat by heavily-striped wooden panels hung from the walls, and a long wooden banquette which runs down one side of the room.
Paper place mats double as menus, complete with a phrase book-style summary of useful vocab with which to enliven the meal: for example "lim-mak", meaning "very full" - not a phrase much needed during our meal.
Most dishes are £7 or £8, with choices listed under "Rice and Pita Bread", "Noodles and Spaghetti", "Wraps" and "Soup Noodles". We opted for beef Gaeng Kiaw Wan (ie beef in green curry and rice), and Hoy Shell Pad Cha (scallops with egg noodles, with a chilli and pepper sauce). The PR svengali pronounced himself very happy with the former. "Not up to my benchmark, Thailand in SE14, but really pretty darn good". My scallops with spaghetti were earnestly-prepared, fresh and wholesome, if perhaps verging on pedestrian.
One thing was for sure: however good the food was, we needed more of it. They don't do puddings, so we split a spicy cod fish satay, which was on the menu as a "Wrap" but which was offered to us in the style of the evening menu (as skewers). This was definitely the highlight: very hot, spicy, yet with bags of flavour still coming through. We had nearly had enough food, and decided it was late and to leave it there.
The staff still seemed to be in slightly early-days mode - some of the decor was still being fixed as we ate - but were trying hard and seemed intent on doing a good job.
If you're a Thai food fan, is Rosa's worth crossing town for? No. But if you ended up there one night, would you store it away in your memory-banks as a handy option in this ever-more happening quarter? Probably. So long as you weren't that hungry.
Last orders: 10.30 pm