A few weeks ago I popped down to London for a wedding and as I was in the neighbourhood I caught up with a fave uni friend in order to have a good natter and meet her fiance. We met up in my favourite part of London, Soho, for drinks and Thai food. It was an all-round evening of favourites for me! I don’t see this friend very often but even when years have gone by between speaking we still pick up exactly where we left off. And she’s still the crazy, funny girl I spent many an evening sat in the student union bar with, making the most of the £5 bottles of wine. I love friendships like that. And I couldn’t be more happier with the lovely gent she is choosing to spend the rest of her life with. He is a smart, funny and lovely. They make a really lovely couple.
It was one of those evenings (hello double-date, ha!) where four people who didn’t really know each other that well (except for me and K) but all got on immediately. I think we laughed from the moment we met up until the moment we said our goodbyes. It was one of those really happy evenings that hinged on good conversation, jokes and laughter. It was rad.
We started off the evening with a drink at the French House on Dean Street. It’s always buzzing and they do a decent glass of white wine so I was happy. It’s not an afterwork drink in London if you don’t spill out onto the streets. So we had a natter ,a few giggles and my friend pointed her finger in the face of Ian Hislop as he walked past saying “looks it’s that man!”. He smirked and carried on walking. I fell about laughing. She’s a subtle as a brick, my friend.
After our drink we were super-lazy and popped next door to the Rosa’s Thai Cafe. This is a new place in Soho, well … it is for me. Soho used to be my old haunt three years ago and it wasn’t there then! I knew of the one in Shoreditch so I reckoned this would be just as good. And my friend was not really familiar with Thai food. The knowledge of this had my jaw on the floor! I thought everyone ate Thai food these days. But then, I eat Thai food at least once a week. So maybe I take it to the extreme. Did I mention how much I love Thai food?!
Rosa’s Cafe is a cosy place with booth tables and a small basement area which was where we were seated. The decor is cool and grey. The ambience was very buzzy and this place is clearly popular. It was full of patrons. This did mean we waited a while for our food but we were enjoying our conversation so much that we hardly noticed.
The food, when it did arrive, was incredible. We ordered some ‘safe’ dishes such as Green, Red and Jungle Curry. Some satay chicken. Plus a Pad Kaprow. And then my friends asked me to pick something more unusual off the menu so they could try something totally new. I chose the Laab, which is a Laos dish (or at least an Isaan dish which is the Northeast region of Thaialand that used to be part of Laos – I’ll save the Southeast Asia lesson for another day!). I ate Laab (sometimes spelt Laap) often when I was on fieldwork in Laos and it’s a deliciously fragrant spicy dish eaten with sticky rice and usually washed down with some Lao Lao (whiskey).
Laab is a dry minced meat dish with chilli, mint, onion, fish sauce, and other flavours. It’s not something Brits would normally think to order as dried mince meat does not sound the most appetising. But trust me, this works.
We ordered the chicken Laab (in SE Asia I used to have the water buffalo) and it was served with small cos lettuce leaves (a decent substitute for sticky rice). The combination of flavours is incredibly more-ish. It’s balanced in freshness and deep spiciness. My friends were highly impressed with my choice and we had a fantastic meal!
Twas a grand night of delicious food, great atmosphere, lots of laughter and very good friends. More evenings should be spent this way. Yep.
A couple of people have emailed me asking for advice about travelling in Southeast Asia. I promise I will blog more about my travels there. You can check out my Burma story to start with. I’m halfway through writing it and I will start up again soon, I promise!