One step for W1, a big step for Londoners
It was with smug delight that I came across the latest location for Alan Yau's, creator of Wagamama, Busaba Eatthai.
But first let me ward off any tipsters waiting to pounce, I am using 'latest' here to mean latest to me, not necessarily wallpaper-yet-to-dry latest. But this should never stop us. For if you applied the same principle to telly, say, you could never watch the evening news or Match of the Day, because it happened before you knew about it. Ah, unless your sensibilities are the reason we have programmes like Love Island and Big Brother. It is all coming together now. No, trend-making anxieties aside for today, let's abide by the 'if we didn't know about it, it's new to us' principle.
So I found myself strolling down Oxford Street at 9PM last night, after a brief bout of retail therapy in HMV (incidentally, how could The Best of Nina Simone be £2.99 after Christmas sales and £13.99 after summer ones?) and The Gap (sorely disappointing this season ladies, I am afraid), looking for a quick 'fill a hole' bite to eat. As it were, I was en route to Wagamama's when I stumbled upon (used with literal intent) Busaba Eathai, the Thai restaurant with an unpronounceable, imperceptible logo. But, rather than generate confusion it generates interest (the queues at the Wardour Street location are legendary).
And finding the front door, is nothing compared to the game of decoding the mystery symbols on the doors of the loos. The figures depicted above are not stick figure erotica after all, they signpost the restrooms. But rather than simply being Thai for male and female, they instead depict the positions either sex adopt in order to urinate. With that sort of conversation piece, who needs to finance Yau's retirement with Hakkasan prices?
Comparisons with Wagamama are inevitable, but Busaba Eathai somehow steps it up a notch whilst keeping the recipe of no-smoking, no MSG, bench tables, great food and no reservations. Everything I had was delicious with more taste and spice than Waga's: the cod fillet stir-fry, steamed coconut rice and side of morning glory vegetables were delectable. And that bottle of house Shiraz at £12.99 is a necessity. Because we all know that red wine with spicy food washes the chilli into the tongue making your spicy food slightly more intense than before. So, go on, indulge your table-mates with a 'I'll have what she's having' When Harry Met Sally moment, and splurge for the all out experience. With an average main at £6.90, you hardly need to feel worth it.
The tables are communal, and whilst the place is buzzy, it's probably best to observe the rules of modern etiquette and switch off your mobile phone. If you have to talk, then do so quietly - the rest of the table do not want to know how fabulous those wedge heel shoes make your calves look.
3 places to find Busaba Eathai:
8-13 Bird Street, W1U (next to Selfridge's, largest and latest)
Store Street, WC1E (Bloomsbury, smallest and cosiest)
106-110 Wardour Street, W1V (Soho, tried and tested)
Mon-Thurs 12 noon -11 PM
Fri-Sat 12 Noon-11:30PM
Sun 12 noon- 10:00PM