The Covent Garden opening follows a successful pop-up in Victoria early last year. The restaurant is being billed as a passion project for Moore who, along with husband Alex, founded Rosa’s in Spitalfields back in 2008 (there are now seven).
Moore hopes to do “one or two more” but is adamant that the spin-off restaurant won’t grow to the size of Rosa’s. The restaurant is claimed to be the first in London to serve Laotian food.
Moore grew up in Phetchabun province, northern Thailand, but her family are originally from Laos, a country that shares borders with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Burma.
The menu is short. It kicks off with three types of salad: papaya (AKA som tam), laab and soop, a dressed spicy salad. The mains section takes in a large selection of grilled dishes – including fermented Lao sausages, pork neck and salt-grilled whole fish – curries, hot pots, and a stir fry. There’s also a bar menu that features deep fried chicken wings, pork jerky and crispy fried bugs.
The price point is a bit higher than Rosa’s Thai Cafe, with most dishes priced between £8 and £10 equating to a food spend of around £20 per head. In keeping with South East Asian eating customs, it’s a communal eating experience with dishes arriving as they are ready.
Designed in collaboration with hospitality agency Rebel Hospitality, the 50-cover restaurant is spread over two floors and has a bright, everyday feel with a large mural created by graffiti artist Mr Cenz. It’s also home to furniture and artwork from Moore’s own collection.
Despite being part of a larger group, Lao Café is run like an independent restaurant with the menu changing every two weeks. Moore – who oversees the food at Rosa’s Thai Cafe – is regularly seen cooking there herself.