Busaba was an instant hit back in 1999 when restaurateur Alan Yau (also the creator of Wagamama, Hakkasan and Yauatcha) opened the original branch on Wardour Street. Yau’s no longer involved, but the chain retains its appeal. Size probably matters; compared to some corporate sharks, it’s a minnow (just nine London outlets) and the Store Street branch, in particular, feels more like a one-off than a cog in a machine. Brooding good-looks – dark teak furniture and walls, oversized lampshades, incense – help, and the communal tables are big enough to make sharing less irritating.
The modern Thai menu covers stir-fries, wok-cooked noodles, grilled meat and the ever-popular curries. Instead of starters, there are sides such as chicken wings or vegetable springs rolls. Green veg curry is always dependable, with a creamy intensity of flavour and plenty of sliced chillies; som tam (green papaya salad) had an eye-watering zinginess; chilli-inflected red lamb curry went wonderfully with fragrant lychees. Drinks include some inventive juices and smoothies, Thai beers and saké. Well-drilled staff keep things ticking over smoothly. Not everything works, though: the non-spicy dishes can be dull, we resent paying extra for rice, and prices keep climbing – Busaba is no longer a bargain.