Ok, so it turns out Alan Yau has conceived a number of eateries, I didn’t realise the connection at first between Wagamama’s which he started in 1992 and sold 5 years later and Busaba Eathai. He is also responsible for Yauatcha and Princi (my first review) which is quite a surprise because there is nothing Asian about it, random. It did have an elaborate water feature though.. so unknowingly I’m a fan of Yau! I’ll have to start checking out his other places including Hakkasan, Sake No Hanam and Cha Cha Moon.
I used to love Wagamama, Gary & I would go regularly (we’ve since just got a bit bored and found cheaper but just as good alternatives). There’s something about chains that evokes the feeling that if you go to one you’re probably missing out on something much better and more original around the corner. Generally being a foodie with an endless list of new places to try they become my last resort. However when it comes to a chain that’s doing something very well and I come away without a complaint, I think it’s worth praise and an occasional return visit.
Busaba Eathai is one of those gems and more recently I’ve discovered Wahaca is too. I guess if you feel similar to me then maybe you go along to these places with low expectations, who knows. I first ate here a few months back at the Westfield Stratford branch with a close friend Hannah, being a newb to London I didn’t know of Busaba Eathai but it looked good and authentic. We had a lovely lunch with attentive staff, tasty food and it was great value.
I returned, this time to the one in Old Street after an evening at Glug London with Mark and Gary. We’d spent the last 4 hours sitting on the most uncomfortable chairs but listening to some interesting speakers none the less. Having had only a packet of free popcorn plus some really gross crisps we were starving, we decided to nip in to Busaba Eathai. There was a doorman (how posh!) and we asked if they were still serving as it was past 10pm, he showed us to our table. A good sign is when you find consistently good experiences at different venues and this can be one of the positives for chains. They’ve usually evolved from popularity and demand which is testament to them doing something right.
Between the three of us, we ordered:
Tom Kha Chicken lemongrass chicken, glass noodle, coconut and galangal soup (£6.90)
Pad Kwetio sen yai noodle, smoked chicken, prawn and holy basil (£8.30)
Chicken Butternut Squash stir-fry with cashew nut and dried chilli (£6.80)
Pandan Chicken garlic and coriander root wrapped in pandan leaf (£5.50)
My Tom Kha was just what I fancied, really wholesome with a deliciously restoring soup. It had a slight cheesy flavour to it but that could have just been the crisps before! It was still really tasty and the chicken had a lovely smoky flavour too. I tried a bite of the other mains and would order them again. The Kwetio noodles were the good sort, nice and thick but the Pandan Chicken starter/side was the stand-out dish of the evening, I was really impressed and have not seen it offered on the menu at other Thai restaurants. Whats more is you can have a go at making it yourself, the website lists the recipe.
The place itself has an unsurprising Thai influence and more attention has been paid to the decor compared to the somewhat basic canteen feel of Wagamama’s. The two Busaba’s I have visited both had water features with floating candles (love those things), low square seating and tables (although the seats could do with some cushioning), warm plates (always a good sign), aromatic smells (I think there was some form of incense burning as we entered) and condiments on the table (massive plus). If I remember right the toilets were also adequate with more incense and some classy hand lotion on offer.
If this is the standard of chains at the moment I’m impressed. Places like Busaba Eathai aren’t resting on their laurels, even after 10 years they have scaled up well and maintained customer loyalty. They are delivering the quality of food, service and all round atmosphere and surroundings to match that of high end restaurants but at great value. This place is a good go-to staple if you enjoy Thai food, I’m keen to see how frequently they change their menu and specials. Their Facebook page showed their head chefs travelling to Thailand which apparently they do regularly to get inspiration and keep their menus authentic and fresh.
|Tom Kha Chicken||£6.90|
|Chicken Butternut Squash||£6.80|
|Beerlao x 2||£3.80 each|
12:00 – 23:00
12:00 – 23:30
12:00 – 22:00