I have a love-hate relationship with Deliveroo. One minute the turquoise kangaroo is the only thing I need in my life, this is usually after a tough day at work, or the night before when a Sainsbury’s Local isn’t local enough. The next it’s a forgotten past-time, collecting virtual dust whilst I’m knees-deep in the undefeated London restaurant scene.
But today isn’t just a tough day at work, and sadly nor is it the day after the night before. We’re living in unprecedented times, where we may not all be in the same boat, but we’re all in the same storm. For most of us, our entire life must take place within the same four walls and the only thing that seems to punctuate one day from the next, is food. Cooking is our meditation, baking is an art, and Deliveroo is a flat-packed night out delivered straight to your front room. If we didn’t already know before, it’s for certain now – food is not just fuel, it’s happiness.
A Rosa’s Thai Cafe stamped bag is unloaded straight onto the table, the sea of plastic rivals the Great Pacific Garbage Patch but I kick my conscience under the table for the night. Naturally we start with prawn crackers, ignoring the fact that they’ve been delivered in a nappy bag. I’ve never met someone who’s patient enough to untie the knot, I don’t think we’d be friends, instead, I ritually tear a great big hole in the side. I grab one, happy that it’s extra curly and has another hanging off it, put it straight into my mouth and wait for it to latch almost painfully onto my tastebuds. What came first, the prawn cracker or Skips? The dryness reminds me to dip the next. A modest pot of sweet chilli sauce sits patiently atop Mount Plastic, a perfect scoop coats my mouth in sweetness, a small sting of heat finally catching up as I’m already reaching for the next.
Time is something we are blessed with a lot of these days, but I remember the spring rolls before it’s too late, a minute too long and the taste usually evaporates slightly. I’m always a bit touched by the humble garnish that comes with spring rolls, and Rosa’s proves to be no different. A solitary piece of lettuce, limp from the journey, tasteless and utterly unnecessary, but still charming. The familiar contrast of the crispy shell and the silky glass noodles wriggling between my lips, is welcomed, as is the sweet chili yet again. Flakes fall into my lap and onto the floor, the trouble with eating like nobody’s watching.
Just before it all becomes too fifty shades of beige, we move onto the main event. A Signature Green Curry, Pad Thai, Chili and Basil Beef Stir Fry and Jasmine Rice. There’s only two of us, but the beauty of your waiter being a gigabyte, means no one knows you’ve ordered one meal too many. A puddle of neon oil floats on the surface of the curry and I try not to worry about the carpets or calories as I peel away the film and release the unforgiving aroma of the Khao San Road into our very own home.
The Pad Thai reveals a brick of rice noodles, tightly laced around one another with a few prawns buried within, cuddled by the ribbons. Chopped peanuts generously freckle the surface of the tub and a warm, unusually yellow, piece of lime rests in the corner, I’ll do the honours. I twirl the noodles around my fork, the smooth flow pleasantly interrupted by a fluffy scramble of egg, knotting an ambitious mouthful around it. Each noodle is frosted with sour tamarind and the taste of the ocean. It’s delicious. The size of the prawns makes them big enough to bite in half and juicy enough to eat alone, if only there was more. The salty peanuts are a perfect contrast to the sweet noodles and I’m grateful for the squeeze of lime. Crunchy beansprouts inelegantly hang from my mouth and I’m sure if I were to close my eyes, I would hear the hustle of a Bangkok food market – the dish lives up to its authenticity claim.
The jasmine rice is like the violinist in Titanic, easily forgotten, but integral to the whole story. In both instances, they shouldn’t go unmentioned and here the rice is fluffier than I’ve ever managed in my own kitchen, even after 15 minutes in a high-vis rucksack. Tasting more like coconut than a coconut itself, the creamy green curry sauce is home to soft pieces of aubergine, giving more texture than taste, sweet crunchy peppers, and in true Thai style a lot of bamboo matchsticks. Delicate slices of chilli look deceivingly innocent as they float next to the Thai basil, but accidentally chew one whole and you might change your mind on innocent. Unlike an Indian curry, the meat doesn’t steal the show. Abundant, but slightly too thin to be tender, I’m indifferent to the chicken, more prawns next time. The chilli starts as a tickle, but after a few greedy mouthfuls, it’s making me sniffle. It reminds me of the play-fights I had with my sister, they always started with a tickle too. The heat settles at one degree below perfect and I sip on wine to cleanse my palate before tucking into the beef.
An opportunity to open a bottle I’d been gifted that year leaves me sipping on a Weegmüller Cuvée Fleur. Why wait for a special occasion, when you can make the occasion the wine? A unique blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Silvaner from Pfalz is a perfect pairing, if only our glasses matched too. Sweet, slightly floral and with enough acidity to hold up the Thai flavours, each sip tastes as smooth as the last and the lower ABV doesn’t ignite the chilli. Is it because we don’t have to pronounce it to the waiter, that wine tastes better on the sofa?
I wish the chilli and basil beef was still sizzling, but we can’t blame Rosa’s for having to dine at home. Even still, the aromatic sauce is distinguishably Thai with a generous handful of basil and garlic pieces visible from the next borough. The beef is slightly dry but the green beans are long enough to be environmentally-friendly straws. Embracing being behind closed doors, I fail an attempt to slurp the sauce through one. Adding a tangy kind of heat to the mix, it’s perfect splashed over the remaining Pad Thai too.
Sitting back on the sofa, and sipping back the wine, I fondly admire tomorrow’s leftovers and the lack of washing up. Cheeks glowing from the heat and bellies full from the feast, it may not be the restaurant dining we’re longing for, but Rosa’s Thai Cafe has to be hard to beat. At this point in the evening we’d normally have a bill to pay, but tonight we’re only indebted to key workers. 8pm on the dot and I reach out the window to thank them with an echoing clap. One for the NHS, one for the Deliveroo driver, both heroes today.
[Pictures are not my own]