What? Popular Thai cafe group, Rosa’s, have opened their latest outpost on Brixton’s Atlantic Road.
Where? Just a few minutes from Brixton station, amongst the hustle of the market: 36 Atlantic Road, Brixton, SW9 8JA, www.rosasthaicafe.com
New? Rosa’s Thai Cafe Brixton opened in March and joins seven other London sites.
On the Menu: A menu of classic Thai street food style starters, noodles, curries and salads include favourites like butternut red curry, Pad Thai and papaya salad get a Rosa’s twist, with some highlighted on the menu as recommended by Saiphin (Rosa’s co-founder) – think pork skewers, salmon red curry and flat noodles in gravy sauce. A nod to the area sees beers from the local Brixton Brewery.
First Impressions: I actually live just round the corner from Rosa’s and as a loyal fan for a while, I patiently waited for it to open. Nestled in amongst slightly smelly fish and meat stalls, those who aren’t used to Brixton might find this off-putting but the restaurant is a welcome addition to Atlantic Road. Smarter than some of the other Rosa’s venues, there is more of a ‘restaurant’ feel than ‘cafe’, with staff greeting us from behind the bar as we walked in before directing us to our table.
The Look: Local artists and designers have been brought in to make the space feel authentic and the result? A wall that looks like metal shutters has been decorated with a giant mural – a nod to the market stalls when they are shut up at night. I wouldn’t exactly have it on my wall at home but I like the idea behind it and it makes the restaurant a little more personal than the others. The ground floor feels very clean and modern, with little wooden tables arranged around banquettes.
What We Ate: The starters here are just what you want to get your meal off to a good start. Fresh spring rolls were full and zingy, with sweet chilli for dipping, and huge crispy prawns were coated in fluffy breadcrumbs, with the same sweet chilli sauce – is there anything sweet chilli sauce doesn’t go with? You can tell the ingredients are fresh; the prawns were cooked perfectly.
Wanting to branch away from the ever-so-popular Pad Thai (I’ve had Rosa’s version before and it’s great), I stuck with noodles and opted for the chicken Drunken Noodles. Chunky and flat, with a comforting kick of chilli, Thai herbs and holy basil sauce, they should really be called hangover noodles. A good alternative to the beloved Pad Thai, they came ‘Recommended by Saiphin’. Rosa’s Green Curry is one of Thailand’s favourites for a reason and perfected here with aubergine, bamboo shoots and sweet basil. Thai food excels at getting the balance right between sweet and spicy and Rosa’s gets it right every time, whether you play it safe with a familiar favourite or dare to drag yourself away and try something new. You’ll never go far wrong.
What We Drank: Whether you want to keep it authentic (Chang) or keep it local (Brixton Brewery) you can. In the end we decided to do neither, opting for a carafe of Argentinian Malbec (sorry) which was served with tumblers to give that cafe vibe. Sometimes only red wine will do…
Go With: Round up your mates or take someone who wants to eat in Brixton but wants something a little more ‘restaurant’ than street food in the market.
Final Word: Rosa’s is a great addition to Brixton. Yes there are other options for Thai but sometimes only a familiar favourite will do so slide into a banquette, load up on beers and order a feast.
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Fran can be found sipping espresso martinis by night and, by day, on the hunt for London's best brunch. Bonus points for a runny yolk and the perfect flat white.