Rosa’s Thai, Victoria

After mass expansion across all of London’s boroughs, there are very few chains that I still like, and choose to visit… Honest Burgers for a meat fix and Rosa’s Thai for a comforting Asian meal. I have eaten in three or four of the Rosa’s Thai establishments and at every restaurant the food upholds a good quality and the service is charming.

Rosa's Thai, Victoria

This season Rosa’s Thai has opened in Victoria, an area which is in desperate need of tasty, genuine restaurants. It is nicely tucked away on Gillingham Street so you won’t have hoards of tourists to fight off for a seat, and inside the restaurant has a relaxed, neighbourhood feel. The space is simply designed with marble and wooden tables and memorabilia from Thailand.

Rosa's Thai, VictoriaRosa's Thai, Victoria

Chang beer and ginger tea arrived to whet our appetites. The menu offers a range of Thai favourites and we kicked off by ordering a couple of starters… usually chicken satay would be my choice, but I decided to branch out with Chicken Wings and Thai Calamari. Both were tasty and fresh, I thought the chicken wings needed a little more seasoning, but the calamari was perfect with a light crispy batter and served with sweet chilli sauce.

Rosa's Thai, Victoria

The main courses were irresistible, both to smell and taste. Stir fried aubergine is a must, the addictive sauce is made with yellow bean, chilli, soya sauce and sweet basil and is lovely contrast of sweet and salty flavours. The aubergine was luxuriously soft so that it practically melted in the mouth. Of the curries, Roasted Duck red curry was my favourite, a rich and creamy coconut sauce with a comforting sweetness from the grapes, pineapple and cherry tomatoes. Prawn crackers were a naughty but necessary snack.

Currently Rosa’s Thai only offer one dessert, mango with sticky rice… but if like us, you feast too much on the mains, you shouldn’t need a pudding at all.

More information and book a table at Rosa’s Thai Victoria here.

Smoking Goat, Soho

There are waves of cuisine fashion in London, recently Peruvian has been popular, and now there’s another trend for Thai. Smoking Goat is the latest “it” venue, found at the unpopular end of Denmark Street, it is characterised by the long queue of hipsters waiting outside. Noisy, crowded and dark, you have to be really keen to try the food to put up with the chaotic conditions. The team have recently extended opening hours so you can eat from 5pm, and having arrived at 6pm we were safely in our seats when the 6.30 rush came. We were rubbing shoulders with a pair of chefs who were gratefully enjoying every plate whilst critiquing the latest London restaurant openings. One of them was talking excitedly about his soon-to-open Middle Eastern restaurant – who knows maybe this will be the next cuisine to catch on.

Smoking Goat offers sticky, spicy and saucy barbecued meat and fish, impossible to eat with any dignity but absolutely, addictively delicious. Having researched the critics’ favourites before arriving, I knew what I wanted without even seeing the menu. We started with the unmissable Fish Sauce Wings and the Coal Roast Aubergine Salad; priced at £6 each, these are small plates which can act as starters. Coated thickly in a crispy aromatic casing, the chicken wings were our favourite dish of the night. The meat inside was tender and succulent while the outer layer was cooked to crunchy perfection, the pile of wings were then slathered in sticky sweet sauce. The gloopy, gooey, soft-baked aubergine was a delight, subtly flavoured and dressed with herbs, I was appreciative to have a break from the meat feast.

For main course, diners only have three choices to ponder over, of which the Whole Cornish Chilli Crab with aromatic herbs, roasted chilli, palm sugar, fresh coconut cream, hot mint and salted curry leaves is fast becoming the restaurant speciality and blogger favourite. Arriving fully shelled in a bowl coated in sauce you will be given an assortment of tools and then be expected to just get on with it! My friend looked up slightly despairingly after five minutes of cracking, poking and licking. Needless to say he kept going for a while longer, addicted to the spiced coconut goodness and fleshy crab meat. I opted for the Slow Roast Duck Legs, though Smoked Lamb Ribs only narrowly missed out. The duck was slightly dry but with a lovely crispy edge, you can dunk it in the jaew dipping sauce for a bit of moisture and a kick of spice.

The drinks menu is definitely not an afterthought with a fine selection of unique craft beers and intelligent wine choices. Smoking Goat doesn’t do desserts, there is thankfully no over-sweet sticky rice and mango here, and you shouldn’t need it after the savoury feast.

When I got home I stank of spice and still felt vaguely sticky… this is not a restaurant for the faint-hearted but boy does the food taste good. My advice? Once you have been designated a table, try to sit back and go with the flow, chances are in two weeks time it will be even more impossible to get a table at London’s new Thai concept, so enjoy the mayhem while you are in the midst of it.

Follow the Smoking Goat team on Twitter here to hear more.

The Heron, Edgware Road

The Heron off Edgware Road is definitely a case of substance over style. Down in the pub basement you will find a dingy little restaurant known amongst serious foodies for its authentic Thai food. You won’t find the standard Pad Thai or Green Curry here; instead this unusual eatery serves up Asian delicacies such as Spicy Salad of Boiled Pig’s Ears and Marinated Duck’s Tongues!

The shabby, dimly lit venue has become known amongst bloggers and journalists as THE place to go in London to experience truly great Thai food. Specialising in North-Eastern cooking the kitchen creates fiery spicy salads, sour curries, stir-fries and much more. Flavours are vibrant and seasonings are strong. The stir-fried soft shell crab is a must, our whole table fought over the final mouthful, a delightful mix of textures and tastes. Other highlights included the Grilled Chicken Wings, garlicky Morning Glory and Stir-fried Pork with Pepper. The food, though it took a while to arrive (the tiny kitchen also deals with take-away orders) was very fresh and tasty.

Cool down with a Chang beer or a bottle of chilled white wine, don’t scarper early as the real vibe gets going later on in the evening. At 9pm the two TVs go on, the microphones appear and the Karaoke tracks start blaring. Stuffed full of food we managed one Beatles song before staggering off home, promising to return with a big group of rowdy (and hungry) friends soon!

More information here.