Conceived by restaurateur Alan Yau more than a decade ago, this original branch of Busaba Eathai attracted queues round the block when it opened in Soho. These days, Yau has only a minority share, and Busaba has become a ten-strong chain – but it’s still not your average Thai joint. The dark, handsome interior combines teak wood, incense and dimly lit lanterns. With spacious shared tables, no reservations and brisk service, the restaurant remains a great spot for a casual meal with friends.
Renowned Thai chef David Thompson’s influence is now far less pronounced than in the early days when he was menu consultant, though there are still a few dishes that aren’t often seen in London, such as the sen chan pad thai (a pimped pad thai with crab originating from the Chanthaburi province of eastern Thailand). The unusual addition of green mango gave this dish a nice crunch, while the mild chilli kick married well with the sweet and sour tang.
A more mainstream tom yam talay was a disappointment, however; what should have been an aromatic, spicy seafood soup was overpowered by fish sauce with only a hint of lemongrass coming through. Busaba may not be as polished or as innovative as when it opened, but you’ll still find a measure of inexpensive charm here.