Manchester city centre has a few exciting new openings in the pipeline for this Spring. Among them, one of London’s best-loved Thai restaurants, Rosa’s Thai Cafe.
Launched on East London’s famous Brick Lane in 2008, it counts a number of famous fans in the capital – including Coldplay’s Chris Martin and comedian Russell Brand.
And now it will soon arrive in Manchester, taking over what was Handmade Burger Co in the old Courthouse on Deansgate.
Rosa’s has built a reputation for big, bold flavours and dishes inspired by its founder’s childhood spent on her family’s farm in Northern Thailand.
Having spent her childhood in the mountains of Khao Kho, Saiphin moved to Hong Kong at 20 and opened her first in-store noodle shop.
After 18 years in China, she then sold the restaurant and moved to London, setting up a market stall on Brick Lane with her husband and business partner Alex.
Not too long after that, they came across a tiny greasy spoon cafe in Spitalfields called Rosa’s that seemed the perfect prospect for their first restaurant.
Taking it over, they decided to keep the name but changed the offering, switching out fry-ups for flavourful Thai dishes from Saiphin’s home country.
Twelve years later, Rosa’s has proved so popular they’re now ready to open their nineteenth restaurant right here in Manchester.
We travelled down to London to visit the original and get a sneak peek at what they’ve got in store for us.
We meet Saiphin at her flagship cafe in Spitalfields, a charming little place bustling with lunchtime customers.
Greeted with big warm smiles, we sit down to gnaw on sticky tamarind fried chicken and rich pork skewers chargrilled and marinated in honey, soy and roasted coriander seeds, and listen to Saiphin’s stories.
She’s had quite a life, starting her first noodle stall at just 14 years old. As a child, she would often wake up at 5am and go to the local market to buy ingredients.
All about the food, as a succession of plates land on the table she is quick to tell us all about her passion for cooking and the way she sources ingredients to make each dish as authentic as possible.
From coconut milk and jasmine rice to tamarind paste and real palm sugar, many of the ingredients she uses today are sourced directly from farmers in Thailand. And her curry pastes are also made just for her in Southern Thailand, to her exact specifications.
More dishes arrive in front of us: light and crispy banana blossom presented in a pastry cup, a spicy salad with pickled daikon and carrot, and a sweet and sour chicken and tofu stir fry are all big hitters.
But they’re fast superseded by the curries, each deep and flavourful in their own right. A red curry with pineapple and chicken is unusual but delicious, whilst the panang is thick and creamy with just a hint of kaffir lime.
The green curry, a Thai classic, is one of Rosa’s best sellers. Listed with three chillis on the menu, it is presented as the hottest option, but in fact the promised heat only arrives right at the end of each mouthful.
Warm and comforting, we’re in no doubt this will become a go-to lunch choice for us when Rosa’s opens in Manchester next month.
Plans for the new site include retaining as many of the grade II-listed features as possible, and the introduction of a Manchester special – which for now is strictly under wraps. But we’re told anything bee or Hacienda-themed is off the table.
“Opening in Manchester has been a long time coming so we’re delighted to be opening our doors next month in what we believe is a fantastic location in the heart of the city.
“We’ve been working really hard on our plans for Manchester, ensuring it sets itself apart from our other restaurants.”
“We’re […] really excited to become part of the city’s vibrant food and drink scene,” said Saiphin.
The 60-cover restaurant will open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, starting with a soft-launch period that will treat diners to 50% off food as Rosa’s introduces itself to the city.
Details for how to book in for the soft launch will be released on Rosa’s Instagram very soon.