While there’s plenty of choice when it comes to eating out in Cardiff these days – Italian, Indian, Mexican, burgers, bistro-style food – the city center itself has been lacking a good Thai restaurant.
But now popular chain Rosa’s Thai Cafe has opened its first Welsh site on the busy foodie row Church Street – where you will already find The Botanist, Mowgli’s Pho and Honest Burgers – in a bid to fill this city center gap.
Just like the glorious Brother Thai on Whitchurch Road which is a bit of a stroll from the city center, Rosa’s feels understated and relaxed from the moment you walk in with simple wooden tables and bench seating
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The company was set up by chef Saiphin, who grew up on a mountain farm in Khao Kho, northern Thailand. When she and her husband moved to the UK, Saiphin started selling home-cooked meals at offices and markets.
A permanent stall on London’s Brick Lane was set up in 2007 and the couple opened their restaurant in 2008 on Hanbury Street. The name Rosa’s comes from the original cafe on that site.
So while the surroundings are unpretentious, what about the food? Forget lunch and dinner, Rosa’s offers an all-day food menu, which includes starters, mains and desserts. There’s also a cocktail menu if you fancy a treat.
Starters include honey-marinated pork skewers, crispy prawns and chicken satay but we ordered the sharing platter to start (£ 7 per person) as we thought it was probably the best bet to sample a good variety – plus we were peckish.
Beautifully presented, it featured chicken satay, Rosa’s homemade spring rolls, pork skewers, Thai calamari and prawn crackers.
Both the chicken and pork were incredibly tender while the satay gave a glorious bite to the chicken and the sticky and glossy satay added a contrasting sweetness when you bit into the pork.
The crisp spring rolls weren’t at all greasy and were packed with with crunchy vegetables, celery, mushroom and glass noodles while calamari had a lovely tempura batter. The sweet chilli sauce gave a delicious kick to both.
There were only two satisfyingly crunchy prawn crackers so we obviously had to order a separate portion (£ 3.25) to add texture to our mains.
Mains are divided into noodles, curries, wok dishes and salads and you simply choose what you want with them – king prawns, chicken, stir-fried beef or veg and Tofu.
I went for Rosa’s red curry with king prawns (£ 13) and sticky rice (£ 3.50) while my partner chose honey-marinated pork with stir-fried vermicelli noodles (£ 11.75).
The prawns were super succulent and the curry was nicely spiced and laced with bamboo shoots and fresh chillies. The sticky rice took away the heat and also mopped up the sauce.
The pork dish was a taste sensation. Once again the meat was tender and the honey flavor was a lovely contrast to the spice. The noodles and crunchy veg worked well together.
While we were full after our mains, the dessert menu – all priced at £ 5.95 – looked tempting so we rounded off the meal with a chocolate fondant and a Thai tea tart.
The soft fondant sponge oozed a gooey chocolate filling and the accompanying coconut icecream was a hit, however, the tea tart didn’t really hit the spot.
All of the dishes were perfectly presented, the service was very efficient and friendly and while the food, like the surroundings, is unpretentious it packs a punch. A great addition to Cardiff city center’s foodie scene.
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