busaba eathai, london

i may as well cut to the chase – i love eating at busaba eathai. i’ve been a regular visitor to busaba since the first one opened back in 1999 and have never had a bad meal. i’ve been known to go for lunch and supper on the same day, and if an extra visit gets thrown in within the same week, well, that’s just fine with me.

for those of you who don’t know, busaba is a mini chain of thai restaurants, opened by alan yau of wagamama (which he has now sold and is a shadow of its former self, with its dishes having lost the carefully balanced flavours that made it so successful), hakkasan (excellent but expensive food, sexy upmarket décor) and yauatcha fame (fantastic dim sum and great cakes to take home with you).

there are now three busaba restaurants in london, all with the signature minimalist teak-lined décor, large square communal tables with low-hanging lights and a no-booking policy which means that queues are common (although they do tend to move quickly).

on saturday, having spent a long morning exploring borough market (and resisting the food surrounding me with an amazing and very unusual show of will-power), and a spree at selfridges, david and i had a late lunch at busaba on bird street.

the menu is simply arranged - there are no starters or puddings and things arrive when they are ready. we ordered four dishes to share – thai calamari with ginger and peppercorns, grilled aubergine with coconut, chilli and mint, po-pea jay (vegetable spring rolls) and chilli prawn fried rice with shitake mushrooms.

i can rarely resist ordering the spicy calamari with it’s fingerlickin’ good flavours of garlic, ginger and green peppercorns. a few years ago time out magazine had “eating busaba’s thai calamari” in its top 50 list of things to do in london and this is a view with which i concur. if you’ve not done it yet – head to busaba and get ready to indulge.

the aubergine is a new favourite (it’s quite a recent addition to the menu) – melt-in-your-mouth aubergine flesh with a tangy lime, fish sauce and chilli dressing; with shreds of fried coconut and mint adding sweetness and a fresh herby zing. the prawn and shitake rice was reminiscent of the flavours of a thai curry and the po-pea jay had the clean crispness of freshly cooked spring rolls.

this was ample food for two hungry shoppers, and was washed down with a nam polami (my detox-friendly juice of carrot, celery, apple, danadelion and nettle extract) and nam som kun (david’s fabulous tasting choice of mandarin juice, lemon grass, mint and chilli).

and the price for this splendid meal? £25 on the nose. great value, delicious food served quickly and simply. what’s not to like?

busaba eathai

8-13 bird st, w1u 1bu - 020 7518 8080

106-110 wardour st, w1f 0tr - 020 7255 8686

22 store st, london, wc1e 7df - 020 7299 7900