Rosas Thai Angel Islington

Rosa’s Thai Cafe

You’ll always find a warm and friendly welcome in these casual Thai restaurants. Rosa’s serve honest Thai food with a whole lot of spice and enough soul to fill the Mekong River. 

Combining modern London with modern Bangkok, Rosa’s Thai Cafe grew from a humble beginning of a street stall on Brick Lane’s Sunday market in the East End of London, which quickly became the locals’ favourite. By summer 2008, Saiphin and Alex had bought an old caff on Hanbury Street, with the help of friends, family and credit cards. The very first site ‘Rosa’s Spitalfields’ was born. They kept the name Rosa’s Cafe as a nod to English tradition and heritage (and also because they didn’t have the means or money to change the sign).

In 2009, the husband and wife team decided to sell their house in Hong Kong to fund the second Rosa’s in Soho.

An opportunity came for a third branch in 2011 at Westfield Stratford just in time for the London Olympics. It continues to be a great hit with the hungry crowd looking for a break from their shopping to this day.

In the summer of 2013, Saiphin and Alex were invited by Shaftesbury Estate to open a site in the historic Carnaby street. This period of change was quickly followed by a year of great reviews from The Times and Evening Standard. Rosa’s even got a mention from Time Out magazine as a mini-group that is ‘fast, friendly and enticing’!

In the next four years, Rosa’s opened in Angel, Victoria, Chelsea, Brixton and West Hampstead, moving into North, West and South London for the first time.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride, but with ten restaurants across London, each with its own character, it won’t be long before you find your favourite(s) Rosa’s Thai Cafe. Find a Rosa’s near you here.

Rosas Pad Thai

Chef Saiphin

“Nothing makes me happier than making people smile with my cooking. I have always loved food and my vision for Rosa’s was always to share this passion.

Every dish on the menu is created by me, based on my family recipes or inspirations from places that I have lived in. Each dish carries fond memories for me, and sharing that with my customers is what Rosa’s Thai Cafe is all about. You can learn how to cook some of my favourite dishes here.

Not many people know this but I still spend every working day in a Rosa’s kitchen. My regular customers often see me cooking and give me a wave. If you see me around, don’t forget to say ‘Hi’!”

Rosas Thai original logo

Who’s Rosa?

The first restaurant opened on the site of a popular East End caff on Hanbury Street. It’s an institution for the locals so out of respect for its previous owner (and as there was no money for new signs) they chose to keep the brand. 

The name stuck and Saiphin has become known as Rosa…

Saiphin in Thailand

Thailand

Every day, the young Saiphin would pitch in on the farm or in her grandparents’ grocery store, before helping her mum cook the family meal.

By the time she left school, the enterprising young lady was already growing her own crops and by 13, she’d managed to sell enough coriander to buy a motorbike and start making deliveries to neighbouring villages. At 16, she took her first steps into the restaurant business, opening a noodle shop in her parents’ front room.

People travelled from across the province to try Saiphin’s noodles, which often sold out just after lunch. What made them so popular? Well, the cool climate of Khao Kho (more Northern California than South-East Asia) allowed Saiphin’s family to grow some pretty unusual crops. As she’d always been taught to use whatever ingredients were available, the young cook would surprise her Thai customers by slipping the likes of iceberg lettuce and carrots into her wok.

Much as Saiphin learned from this home-grown approach to cooking (she still uses a lot of British ingredients in the kitchens at Rosa’s), it was a visit to Bangkok that first got her properly excited about food. The smells, tastes and sounds of the street food stalls – and the sheer variety of ingredients and dishes available there – were a world away from her life on the farm. She absolutely loved it.

Saiphin in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

When she was 20 Saiphin moved to Hong Kong to start work as a nanny. While stocking up on ingredients for endless family meals and dinner parties, Saiphin got friendly with the market traders and shopkeepers of Kowloon City (an area that’s often referred to as Hong Kong’s ‘Food City’ or ‘Little Thailand’).

A local grocery ended up asking her to open an in-store noodle shop and this, in turn, led to a part-time role in a Thai restaurant. As a result, Saiphin spent the next two years fitting catering jobs around her babysitting duties and would often be cooking from six in the morning until nine o’clock at night.

 

Saiphin spent the next 18 years in Hong Kong – with some extended breaks in both the Channel Islands and Thailand. In 2001, she met Alex – who was running a digital marketing business at the time.

Shortly afterwards, Saiphin opened a Thai takeaway, followed by a sit-down restaurant named Tuk Tuk Thai the following year.

The pair lived together in Hong Kong for 6 years, before selling the restaurant and moving to London together in 2006.

Saiphin and Alex Moore

The UK

Living in the UK can be quite tricky when it comes to finding authentic Thai ingredients. Of course, that didn’t phase Saiphin who went wild mushroom-picking and acquainted herself with the Jersey Royal potato (now a vital ingredient in the beef massaman curry at Rosa’s).

Saiphin challenged herself to cook authentic Thai dishes with seasonal British ingredients and it reminded her of being back on the farm in Khao Kho, where the family would use whatever produce was in season at any given time.    

Back in London, she started selling home-cooked meals at offices and markets. Although she’d make quite unusual dishes (fermented pork with crispy rice and red curry paste was a favourite), she’d often sell out before lunchtime. Within a year, she was recruiting friends to help deliver food to offices.

 

A permanent market stall on Brick Lane in East London in 2007 would soon become a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things. In 2008, just two years after arriving in London, Saiphin and Alex found a site for their permanent restaurant.

The pair took over the lease of a traditional British caff on Hanbury Street and decided to keep the name Rosa’s on the door out of respect for the history of the area – along with a lack of funds to pay for a new sign.

Rosa’s Story

The Rosa’s brand was born out of our founder Saiphin’s passion for authentic Thai food and seasonal local ingredients. Rosa’s put sustainability at the heart of everything they do and are proud to have been born in Thailand and raised in the East End of London.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe | A brief history of Rosa's

Rosa’s Thai Cafe


A brief history of Rosa's

Chef Saiphin | The brain behind Rosa's

Chef Saiphin


The brain behind Rosa's

Who’s Rosa? | Where did the name come from?

Who’s Rosa?


Where did the name come from?

Saiphin’s life in food

From Thailand to the UK, via one of the most exciting food cities in Asia. It’s been quite a journey…

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