When it comes to eating out, Leeds has plenty to offer. The electric northern city is home to a diverse and exciting restaurant scene and new eateries are popping up around the city pretty much every month. In Leeds, you’ll find cuisines from all around the globe including Spanish, French, Indian, Scandinavian, Cantonese, Japanese and many more. Thai cuisine is one in particular that you won’t have to look too far to find. The city boasts a number of excellent Thai restaurants including the multi-award-winning Sukhothai, the fabulous Chaophraya and street food favourites Zaap Thai.
One which we have been meaning to visit for a while is the vibrant Rosa’s Thai Cafe located on the upper floor of Trinity Leeds. The inviting eatery has a gorgeous terrace space which always seems to be filled with happy diners. Last week, we made our way over to Rosa’s Thai to see how their offering compares to those of other Thai restaurants in Leeds.
Rosa’s Thai was established in London in 2008. Chef Saiphin and her husband, Alex, bought an old cafe on Hanbury Street after a successful period selling their food on Brick Lane’s Sunday market. The eatery was an instant hit with Londoners and the following year, the couple opened their second London restaurant, this time in Soho. Fast forward to 2022 and there are now more than 30 Rosa Thai venues scattered across the country, serving the delicious authentic Thai food that founder Saiphin grew up eating and cooking.
Like the other Rosa’s Thai venues, the Leeds restaurant is very much a casual dining spot. Designed to be a laidback and vibrant eatery at which people can enjoy the authentic flavours of Saiphin’s home country in an informal and social environment, it’s the ideal spot for a mid-shopping spree lunch.
The interiors at Rosa’s Thai seemingly pay homage to the brand’s roots with simple no-frills dining booths that have been given a colourful uplift with trendy Bangkok-style decor.
We sat in one of their comfortable booths and instantly noticed a selection of condiments in the centre of the table. They provide soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and extra chillis in abundance meaning diners can alter their dishes to their own preferred levels of saltiness and spiciness.
The menu, although noticeably shorter than those we have seen at many other Thai restaurants, features all the Thai favourites including a handful of starters, a couple of curries, two or three salads and a few stir-fries. Far from extensive but perfect for a casual dining spot in the centre of a busy shopping centre. Chances are, few diners at this establishment will want to spend a significant length of time deliberating when there’s so much to browse and buy within Trinity!
My plus-one for Rosa’s Thai was once again my husband and, having accompanied me on reviews quite a few times already, he had already studied the menu. We chose to begin with the Classic Sharing Platter so we could sample a number of their most popular starters at once.
Not one who can handle a great deal of spice, Mr Wilson-Barrett then opted to follow this with the Sweet & Sour Chicken and a side of Egg Fried Rice whilst I chose the Pad Thai with King Prawns.
Our sharing platter arrived astonishingly quick and we were soon tucking into a variety of starters all differing considerably in flavour and heat level. The prawn crackers were wonderfully crisp and really packed a punch.
The Chicken Satay Skewers were succulent and perfectly seasoned but the accompanying peanut sauce turned them from average to amazing. Creamy, spicy and packed with chunks of peanut, it was one particular part of the platter that my husband and I wished we had in greater quantity.
We chose not to share all components, however, as my husband really doesn’t like seafood, despite my best efforts to convince him to try different varieties. He ate both the Spring Rolls and I had all the Calamari.
Vastly different to Calamari I have eaten elsewhere, this one was cut into quite thick strips and then coated in chunky breadcrumbs and a whole lot of spice. The contrasting textures of the crunchy coating and the slightly chewy squid made this my favourite part of the platter.
Also included with our sharing starter were a couple of Marinated Pork Skewers. Clearly, the pork had been left to soak up the flavours of the marinade for quite some time as it looked more like thin strips of beef than pork but was delightfully tender and juicy.
Having skipped breakfast, we quickly devoured our starter and were soon presented with our main courses. Mr Wilson-Barrett loves the Sweet & Sour from our local Chinese takeaway but neither of us had tried a Thai version before.
In our opinion, this one was far better. Completely devoid of the neon orange sugar-packed gloop he’s used to, this dish comprised lightly coated chunks of chicken in a sauce not too dissimilar in flavour but notably spicier and clearly a lot healthier than that which he gets delivered on a lazy Saturday night. The side Egg Fried Rice was tasty, fluffy and not in the slightest bit greasy.
My Pad Thai looked delightful when it arrived. Jumbo king prawns were nestled amongst swirls of soft noodles and crunchy beansprouts and there was a generous pile of chopped peanuts at the side for sprinkling on top. Although slightly greasier than those I have tried at other Thai restaurants, I did enjoy my dish, especially after adding some of the provided soy sauce and a scattering of chilli.
The prawns were plump and juicy and I counted a reasonable five within the dish. Being a carb-based dish, I didn’t manage to finish it though and my husband refused to clear my plate due to the presence of things that used to reside in the sea.
Apparently still able to squeeze in another course, my Husband decided he would order a dessert. Having spotted a rather large dessert menu emblazoned on a board behind the main counter, he was eager to sink his teeth into Waffles & Ice-Cream. Unfortunately, when he tried to order it, we were informed that the menu was outdated and that particular dish was no longer available.
We requested a copy of the current dessert menu and Mr Wilson-Barrett ordered the Chocolate Fondant with Coconut Ice Cream. Still feeling rather full, I requested a single scoop of Mango Sorbet to cleanse my palate.
My Mango Sorbet was beautifully refreshing and just what I needed after my Pad Thai. My husband’s Chocolat Fondant didn’t quite live up to expectations though. Although it appeared indulgent and naughty we were both disappointed to discover it has been overcooked. Instead of hiding an oozing chocolate centre, it was like a dense chocolate sponge throughout.
Whilst we weren’t blown away by the food at Rosa’s Thai, it made for a rather enjoyable lunch. It was only the Chocolate Fondant dessert that disappointed and I think that’s more down to human error. Everything on our sharing platter was delicious and other than mine being a tad too greasy for my liking, the mains were tasty too.
For a casual lunchtime meal or an impromptu catch-up with friends, the venue and location are perfect and it’s very reasonably priced. With three courses and two alcoholic beverages each, our bill came to less than £80. If you eat out in Leeds regularly, you’ll know how pricey it can be so this is a great choice for those seeking authentic flavours on a less than healthy budget.
This review was written and published following an invitation to dine at Rosa’s Thai. An invitation does not guarantee coverage on our publication or any other publications owned by Roaring Media Ltd – we only publish reviews following positive experiences, whether we have been invited to dine or made a personal reservation. The brands we work with have no editorial control over our content