Tooting High St

Rosa’s Thai Cafe

When Belpassi Bros closed in Tooting we were a little disappointed, so when we saw the signs promising that a new eatery was taking over the site, we were really pleased. Rosa’s Thai Cafe have numerous other branches across London including Brixton. Being reasonably new converts to Thai food we were really looking forward to seeing what was on offer.
We booked a table for 7pm and when we arrived, we could see that the layout has remained almost the same as when Belpassi Bros were here. There are several tables in the front area of the restaurant with a bar preparation area. Towards the back is the open kitchen and a larger communal or group table is behind that. The place has been given a lick of paint and it has a cosy and modern feel to it. We were seated at our table and left to explore the menu.

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We selected a range of starters to get us going which included, spring rolls, chicken wings, prawns and prawn crackers. To wash it down we chose a beer and a gin based cocktail.

The starters all arrived on really nice green crockery. The prawn crackers, with good flavour and a nice crunch, were accompanied by a satay dip which was a nice change from the sweet chilli sauce that everything else came with.

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The prawns were tasty, with a good crispy batter and were well cooked. The spring rolls were hot and not too greasy, with a decent amount of filling. The chicken wings were a let down though. They had a strange texture and lacked any meat on them. Whilst the little meat that was there came away from the bones easily, they didn’t really have any flavour which was disappointing. As we said, all of these came with a sweet chilli dip. We felt that some variation to this would have been good; perhaps a soy based one, for example.

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For our main courses we had decided on a pad Thai and a Rosa’s specialty butternut squash red curry with a portion of sticky rice to go alongside it. Again, the dishes were served on very nice crockery making them look appealing and they smelt good too.

The butternut curry had flavour and a nice amount of heat to it. However, it lacked any substance. The chunks of butternut were few and far between and slightly firmer than I would have liked. The sauce was tasty but it quickly became like eating a bowl of soup. This dish was priced at £10.50, without the rice, so it felt like a very expensive bowl of soup to be honest

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Sadly, the pad Thai was also lacking. Now I’m far from an expert on Thai food, in fact this is only the 2nd pad Thai that I’ve had, so I can only compare it to the other one which was at Kaosarn. This one lacked any real flavour and was quite bland in comparison. No sweet or sourness from the tamarind, I couldn’t taste any egg, even the crushed peanut lacked in flavour. Disappointing.

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Every time we’ve been past Rosa’s they seem to be busy, which is good to see. For us though, the meal didn’t quite hit the mark. We left with full tummies but an emptier wallet than we would have liked.

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Daddy Bao

We have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Daddy Bao on Mitcham Road in Tooting for a few months so we felt pretty smug about being able to bag a table for their soft launch this weekend. The only time we’ve tried bao buns is at Tootopia earlier this year so we were really keen to find out what all the fuss was about.

We were greeted warmly at the door and instantly embraced by the warm and inviting atmosphere created by the décor and red lanterns hanging from the ceiling. We chose to sit at the bar area, which was next to the kitchen, on high stools. We were given an order pad which was a clever way of presenting the menu. Basically, we just had to decide which dishes we wanted and write how many we wanted in the boxes next to the descriptions.

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Everything sounded delicious so, after some deliberation, we opted for some snow peas, chicken poppers and sweet potato chips from the share section of the menu and a Mr Bao, Pork Belly bun, a beef brisket bao, and a drunken prawn bao. To drink we chose a gin xuan tonic and some sake.

We didn’t have to wait long for the food to start arriving and once it did, it came pretty much all together.  It’s going to be hard to find enough superlatives to describe the food so, just to be clear, we loved it.

The snow peas, although a simple idea, were served in a soy glaze with sliced ginger on top. They had been cooked perfectly and tasted really good. We hoovered them up.

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The sweet potato chips came with a wasabi mayonnaise and had been cooked in a light batter. Again, these were perfectly cooked and the mayo had a nice amount of heat to it which complimented the sweetness of the chips themselves.

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The chicken poppers were soft and sweet, having bags of flavour and provided just the perfect mouthful.

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Now, as mentioned before, the only time we’ve had bao buns before was at Tootopia and whilst they tasted good, the buns were good but perhaps a little cloying in their texture. Not so at Daddy Bao. The buns were like light pillows that didn’t stick around your teeth at all. The fillings in all of them had lots of flavour and a good mixture of textures with spring onions, red cabbage pickles, peanuts and pickled mooli.

Pork belly:

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Prawn on the left, and brisket on the right:

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We were hooked! So much so that we decided to go for it and order some more (we know this is greedy but we just couldn’t resist). So, we ordered a three cups chicken bao and a shiitake mushroom bao and some fried chicken.  Whilst we waited we also ordered a negroni. It tasted great but a couple of those would be pretty dangerous!

The fried chicken arrived and, like everything else we had eaten, it tasted fantastic. The chicken was lovely and tender, with the coating nice and crunchy, and the dip had a perfect amount of heat to it.

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The final 2 bao buns were also a triumph. The three cup chicken, which was slow braised and served with pickled red cabbage, spring onions, coriander, and a honey sauce was delicious; a real mix of flavours that worked well together, and the mushroom bao was equally fantastic.

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When our bill came it was just over £60, which we were more than happy to pay for all that food and drink. However, as it was a soft launch, they corrected the bill and took 50% off the food taking it down to just over £40! Considering the amount of food we had eaten, how good everything had tasted, the great service and drinks, we felt like we had had a real bargain.

All in all, we really hope that Daddy Bao is a huge success. We are already dreaming about our next visit and just hope that next time we head that way, we can get a table.

 

 

Apollo Banana Leaf

There are lots of Indian (and Sri Lankan) restaurants to choose from in Tooting and we have been on the search to try and find our new favourite. Someone recommended Apollo Banana Leaf as one of theirs so we thought we would give it try. We booked a table for 4 earlier in the week for 7.30pm on Saturday evening. You can’t book online so we did this by calling them and were told “don’t be late”. OK!

The restaurant is situated further away from Tooting Station, along Tooting High Street towards Colliers Wood, not far from Kaosarn Thai. The décor is decidedly 1980’s and took us all back a bit. The walls are painted in interesting colours and are adorned with various large landscapes, and the padded chairs are covered in blue shiny fabric with flashing fairy lights twinkling around the bar. For us though, as long as it is clean, and it was, it is all about the food. We were seated at a table for 6. The tables are crammed in so it was nice to have a little extra space.

The menu was interesting. It lacked a lot of the dishes you would expect to find on an Indian menu eg. rogan josh, bhuna etc but, to be fair, they advertise as a Sri Lankan restaurant which may explain that.

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We decided to choose a range of dishes which were similar to those we have had elsewhere to make it easier to compare. For starters, we opted for onion bhaji, chicken pakora and deep fried prawns. We also ordered poppadums, but these never arrived.

The starters were good. The onion bhajis were large, very crispy and easily shared between the 4 of us. The prawns were great. They had a spicy finish and a meaty texture to them and the coating was nice and crispy.  The chicken pakora were also good and had a nice bit of heat to them. They were served with a mint yogurt and a spicy dip.

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For mains, we ordered chilli chicken, chicken korma, chicken tikka masala and jeera chicken. To accompany these dishes we chose mushroom rice, pilau rice and a garlic and plain breads. The dishes arrived in stainless steel dishes and were good sized portions.

The tikka masala was slightly different to others we have had bit tasty. It had quite strong garlic flavour to it and came with plenty of sauce.

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The chilli chicken was a drier dish and not as hot and spicy as we had hoped. It was tasty but lacked a bit of kick.

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The korma was creamy and had a nice balance of coconut flavour to it. The chicken was tender and nicely cooked.

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Finally, the jeera chicken was really good. Marinated in herbs and then flavoured with cumin and fennel seeds, giving it a lovely peppery and aniseed hint. The sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I’d like but it was still tasty.

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The bill came and it came to around £15 a head. We were pretty impressed with that. This was of course helped by the fact the restaurant was BYOB which makes it a considerably cheaper option.

Is the Apollo Banana Leaf our new favourite South Asian restaurant? Probably not, but it is certainly a good value meal and we had a very nice time. We weren’t rushed at any point and could have sat there all evening. If you have a favourite Indian dish, you may be disappointed with the menu here, but if you are happy to try something new, this is a good place to try. The dosa, which the neighbouring table had, looked fantastic. Next time we will give that a go.

Kaosarn Thai

Kaosarn was recommended to us by friends who had previously visited both the Battersea and Tooting branches. We booked a table with them at the Tooting branch for 7.45 on Saturday evening.  Kaosarn is situated on Tooting High Street, about 5 minutes walk away from Tooting Broadway Station in the direction of Colliers Wood, but it’s worth the walk.

We were warmly greeted by Giselle, and seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Kaosarn is BYOB and cash only so we had all come equipped with our preferred tipple for the evening. The menu was extensive and had all the thai staples you would expect to see.

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Whilst we made our choice, we were provided with a couple of bowls of fantastic Thai prawn crackers to nibble with a sweet chilli sauce.

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Between us we ordered a selection of starters: spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, king prawns in batter and fish cakes. They were all served piping hot and very quickly to our table and were delicious. The spring rolls had a perfect crispy shell with a soft mushroom and vegetable filling. The prawns had a light and crispy batter and were served with a grated radish and soy sauce dip. The fish cakes were soft, fragrant and spicy, and the satay skewers had a chargrilled flavour with a lovely sweet peanut sauce.

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The main dishes we had ordered included a Gai Tod (deep friend garlic and pepper chicken with sticky rice and green salad). A good crunchy coating surrounded the chicken, which was very tasty. The sticky rice perfectly cooked, and the salad was lovely and fresh. The dipping sauces were a good contrast to each other, and the hot dipping sauce had a good kick to it.

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We also had a beef massaman curry, and this was so much nicer that when I have had it in other restaurants. The sauce was just the right balance of flavour with soft chunks of beef, potato and onions.  It was full of flavour and served with soft and fluffy rice.

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Chicken pad thai was also ordered. This was also delicious, and again it was considerably nicer than has been eaten at other Thai restaurants.

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Finally, one of us ordered the Kao Pad Kra-Praw with chicken. A good mix of flavours and textures, and a fair bit of heat from the chilli.

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We were all full by the end of the meal and when the bill came, it came to about £15 per person. Based on the amount and quality of the food we had had, this seemed like really good value. Because the restaurant is BYOB, it’s a great way to keep the overall bill down and Kaosarn would be a great place to go with a group of friends.

The service all night was friendly and speedy and when we left, there was a queue at the door. If you are planning on giving Kaosarn a try, we’d really recommend you book a table or go on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday evening when it is a bit quieter. Whether  you like Thai food or have never tried it before, Kasoarn is sure to hit the spot.

 

MUD

We try to avoid queuing if we can which is one of the reasons we haven’t been to Mud for brunch until now. The last time we ventured to that end of Tooting High Street there was a queue in the street and we decided not to wait (we were in desperate need of coffee and food!). After today though, we can see why people do wait in line here.

As the sun was out they had opened their garden at the back and, despite being a Friday, when we arrived this was the only place where there were tables free. The menu is varied and includes a range of goodies including smashed avocado, eggs benny and granola. Seeing plates of food being delivered to the tables around us made it hard to choose as it all looked so good but in the end we chose a Mud Muffin and the wild mushroom special. We also chose a long black, cappuccino and a Karma cola to drink.

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Sitting in the sun, it almost felt like summer, and the food and drink didn’t take long to arrive.  The food looked amazing. The wild mushroom special included 2 slices of toasted sourdough bread, 2 poached eggs, a grilled sausage, some red onion jam and a huge mound of mushrooms with pesto. It was delicious. The eggs were poached to perfection and the rich and creamy yolks provided a lovely rich sauce for the mushrooms. The mushrooms were earthy and well-cooked and the pesto provided a nice bit of flavour.

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The Mud Muffin, not dissimilar to a full English in a stack, was great. A tasty sausage patty with a slice of chedder, bacon and a lovely soft fried egg (although the edges of it were quite crispy), sandwiched perfectly between a muffin. Of course, I mustn’t forget the fantastic potato waffles with parmesan on top. I haven’t had them for years, and they were great!

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Mud pride themselves on making proper coffee and the coffee here is very good. The flavour of the espresso came through the Long Black well, with no bitter or burnt edge to it. The cappuccino had well stretched milk that added the perfect sweetness to it without having to add sugar.

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As we said, after having brunch here today we can see why people queue here at the weekends. It’s well worth it!

TOTA

We have never been to Tota. We aren’t sure why, but after last Saturday night we were both left very aware that we had been missing out on this little gem in Tooting and were very clear on the fact we would be back. We booked a table online for 7pm and arrived a little early. This proved to be a good thing as we were in time to take advantage of the 2 for 1 cocktails as part of happy hour. We had to order 2 of the same so selected a Pornstar Martini (vodka and passion fruit, with a shot of Prosecco), slightly unmanly but tasty all the same.

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The menu at Tota is wider ranging than most restaurants in the vicinity. What really came across was the passion for food and desire to create great dishes from good ingredients. This did present us with a dilemma though as all of the specials sounded delicious and we wanted to try them all.

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In the end we settled on some crispy pigs head bites as a nibble, then the lobster mac and cheese, and the foie gras and duck terrine for our starters. The pigs head nibbles were moist, meaty and had great flavour, and came with a nice aioli dip. They prepared us nicely for the food that was to follow.

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We can sum up our starters in 2 simple words; totally delicious. To add a few more though, the lobster mac and cheese was creamy, rich and full of flavour. Topped with some streaky bacon and asparagus on top, it was absolutely delicious could have passed for a main meal.

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The foie gras and duck terrine was equally lovely: it was rich and creamy but had a nice meaty substance to it, and it came served with a red onion chutney, adding some sweetness and sharpness, and some toasted bread.

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The meal had got off to a great start already and the mains had a lot to live up to, but thankfully they did. We chose the ribs, as we were told they were smoked in house and a bit of a specialty, and also the lamb rump. These were both from the main menu, but again, there was so much choice and the specials all sounded lovely. When they arrived we were not disappointed. The ribs were amazing: sweet, smoky and they just fell apart. The portion was also massive. They were served with a good slaw, and choice of baked potato, fries or sweet potato fries and I opted for the sweet potato fries. I couldn’t finish all of the ribs but luckily I was with someone who could help.

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The generous portion of lamb was lovely. Cooked perfectly pink and covered in a lovely gravy, it was served with some creamy mash, parsnips , lovely earthy mushrooms, and soft confit garlic. It was very tasty, and very filling.

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We had accompanied our meal with a glass of wine each (Sauvignon Blanc and a very nice Rioja) and by the time we finished our mains we were stuffed. The deserts all sounded amazing but we just couldn’t eat another thing.

I don’t know why we had never been to Tota before now, we’d walked past it numerous times, but we have been seriously missing out. The food was fantastic, the service was warm and welcoming and it was good value for money. As we said, it is a bit different to some of the other places in Tooting who offer much narrower and specific menus but Tota is the sort of place you could go to with friends, family or even on a date. The bonus is, there is something on the menu for everyone. On Tuesday nights they do half price ribs and, if what we had on Saturday is anything to go by, that would be an absolute bargain.

@TotaRestaurant

http://www.tota-restaurant.co.uk

Chicken Shop

Friday night and a visit from the parents meant we could either cook or go out, and being honest with you, who wants to cook on a Friday? Obviously the location was going to be Tooting, but what about the food? Well, sometimes you just need Chicken and chips, and for me Friday was one of those day, so the decision was easy; Chicken Shop.

Chicken Shop has been in Tooting for several years now, and they are now in 10 other locations around London (and a couple abroad). Like most places in Tooting, it is small inside but well designed and has a rustic feel to the décor. We arrived early, meaning they seated the 4 of us quickly at a table in the restaurant area at the back. The menu is simple. Chicken or burgers from the Dirty Burger menu.

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After some deliberation we opted for a whole chicken and a selection of sides to share including sweet potato fries, a lettuce and avocado salad, corn on the cob, onion fries and coleslaw.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive and it looked great. The chicken here is finished on a rotisserie, and is succulent and tasty in a way you just can’t get it at home (unless you put some effort into it!). They chop it up into perfect portions, pop in some lemon slices to squeeze over if you so desire, and leave it to you to tuck in.

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The sweet potato fries were delicious, really well cooked and crispy. We weren’t sure what to expect with the onion fries, but they were like ½ onion rings with a light and crispy batter.

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The corn was drizzled with a garlic butter and the coleslaw was also fresh, crunchy and really tasty.  The salad was a good sized portion and came with a well flavoured dressing.

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On the tables, they supply bottles of their own smoky sauce and their own hot sauce. These add a nice hint of heat and flavour.

We were all too full to eat desert and left with that feeling you get when you’ve had a really good meal.

For us, Chicken Shop beats Nando’s hands down. It’s not just the chicken that tastes nicer, or the great sides that they offer, but the atmosphere inside is more relaxed and the service is always friendly. Of course if you just want to stay in,  you can get Chicken Shop delivered straight to your door with Deliveroo, and we can vouch for the fact the food tastes just as good at home as it does if you eat in!

http://www.chickenshop.com/

@ChickenShop