22 Store Street
Tel: 020 7299 7900
Words and Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass
In a road off busy Tottenham Court Road sits the unassuming Busaba Eathai. A tranquil oasis of culinary calm. As the name suggests it is Thai food on offer here, served in a casual style, sitting on long benches around large square tables your food is served when it’s ready. The four of us are all keen on Thai food but A our youngest didn’t want anything too hot or spicy.
The menu is arranged in a different way than most, it displays columns divided into cooking types. For example there are salad, soup noodle, wok noodle, stir-fry, grilled, curry and side columns to mix and match from. As there are no formal starters we decided to cheat the system a little and order sides as our starters then our mains later, which we then shared.
This one of a chain of 10, all in located in London offering the same menu across all restaurants. They have an authentic approach to food at Busaba Eathai, which I welcome. It was great to see pandan chicken, that lovely little starter of steamed chicken pieces wrapped in a pandan leaf that when carefully unwrapped reveals succulent meat cooked in spices. A and X, his elder brother both chose goong tohd; large breaded prawns with a chilli lime sauce. The sauce was a touch too hot for A so he had chicken satay as well leaving the sauce but thoroughly enjoyed the prawns and the chicken. X ate everything. I had Thai calamari with ginger and peppercorns. This was a very large portion and tasted wonderful. The ginger was strong but not overpowering and the pepper set the right note, with rice this could easily be a good lunch.
Busaba is a Thai flower and Eathai is a fusion of eat and Thai, here it replaces the more formal word restaurant. Busaba is trying to make eating easier by offering a single dining course (of course that does depend on how hungry you are)! The Thai philosophy of ‘as you eat, you are’ is prevalent here. All the ingredients are top notch, they wish to take away the everyday chaos of life and offer simple solutions; a Buddhist approach of sookjai which is about being able to take life as it comes and transcend reality. Literally it means to ‘to enjoy’ or ‘to have pleasure’.
M, never one to ignore duck on any menu went for char-grilled duck with Chinese broccoli and a tamarind sauce. This ticked all the boxes, superb duck and that sour from the tamarind balanced with sweetness from the sauce. This was a very good plate of food that M enjoyed enormously saying “I haven’t had Thai food this good for ages, it’s hot as it should be and very authentic, maybe Thailand was the last time?”
I was also tempted by tamarind so had char-grilled beef. This was also very good with ingredients that were well prepared and just seemed, well in place and harmony. X chose a humdinger of a red beef curry with Thai pea, aubergine, lime leaf and chilli. This was creamy with coconut and had a real kick to it. The chilli and lime were fighting for first place on my tongue. This was my favourite dish of the evening.
A pad kwetio of sen yai noodles, smoked chicken and shiitake mushrooms had a bite to it and made a perfect diversion from our more robust mains. The salmon and green mango salad with lime leaf, peanut, chilli and Nam pla dee sauce was brilliantly fresh with a generous portion of salmon. The mango looked absent then we realised it had been made into shoestrings looking like noodles. A pretty dish that had chilli in heaps and had my vote from the very first mouthful.
As with the food the drinks are arranged in types; muddled, juice, soft drink, cha and wines. The muddled section caught our eye with A lucking out and have the most sublime apple juice. This appeared to be the whole apple blitzed freshly and just tasted wonderful and fresh, like a summer picnic. X went for a grapefruit mojito with vanilla, mint, lime and a touch of chilli. This is definitely a ‘wake you up’ drink. It had punch; sour and a refreshing zing to it.
I am not a Buddhist but could see the attraction at least with their approach to food. This calm, unfussy restaurant does have a Buddha in the corner, glistening gold with incense whisping around. A narrow but long ‘lake’ sits on one wall with floating candles and flowers are a beautiful and tranquil sight. These are the only references to the food origin and I think they have it about right. The food speaks for itself; there is no need to add false deities or incongruous temples in a place so evidently tranquil and at peace with itself.