Busaba Eathai, 8-13 Bird Street, London W1

Does Alan Yau's Busaba chain still offer the same comfort 10 years after its launch?

I don't expect much sympathy (all right, any), but visiting new restaurants can be tiring. The day's preparation: not eating too much, avoiding scorched tastebuds from too-hot coffee, remembering pseudonym the table is booked under, and so on. To say nothing of the occasional fear involved. For instance, tonight I'm going to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the media frenzy and elaborate – some might say perversely – historically accurate menu is making me nervous. (You'll be able to read my review in a fortnight.)

Sometimes I want – like you, I'd guess – to go somewhere reliable, comforting and easy, especially when it's a chilly winter night and it's taken protracted diary-wrangling to get a babysitter, find friends who aren't away, for them to get a babysitter, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I've always had a soft spot for Alan Yau and his restaurant enterprises. Wagamama, which will celebrate its 20th birthday next year, was his brilliant idea, bringing noodles and soups to the masses, who fell love with the refectory tables and killer combination of speed and flavour. He's no longer at the helm, but it's still a dead-cert for speedy, tasty lunch. Then there's been Hakkasan, Cha Cha Moon, and a newish foray into Milanese bakery with Princi in London's Soho (drove past last night at 8pm – it was packed).

But it's his Thai mini-chain Busaba Eathai, now more than 10 years old itself, that is one of a handful of go-to places when I want no surprises, lots of good food and a relaxed time.

We pile in to the Bird Street branch just before the Saturday-night rush, thereby avoiding lingering by the incense burning by a statue of Buddha, and the attention of the queue-wrangler. The interior hasn't changed since the über-chic designer Christian Liaigre's original plan – dark-wood benches and huge, square, shared tables under soft lighting. Nor need it have changed; it's a style that gives diners the feeling they're somewhere more special than a post-shopping fuel stop.

Sprawled over two sides of the table, we order quickly and extensively. The beauty of eating out with good friends is that there's no need to hide one's greed.

Still feeling New Yearish, we stay off the alcohol and have a jasmine smoothie (unusual, not displeasing, although it does look like puréed frogspawn), cherry soda and home-made lemonades, which are perfect foils for the deeply savoury, tangy Thai food. The menu hasn't changed in years either, since Thai-food expert David Thompson consulted. Classic starters of chicken satay (£4.95) and vegetable spring rolls (£3.90) are well executed, but it's the green papaya salad (£6.90) I'd recommend to anyone – almost unbearably zingy, with tender strips of fruit and crisp dried shrimp getting a punch of flavour from the chilli heat. That clears the passages good and proper for more Thai crowd-pleasers.

Grilled duck with tamarind sauce (£12.40) is rich and tender, cut thick, and I need almost all of the coconut rice, served in a dinky bamboo pot, to soak up the juices. Mr M and neighbour Paul fight over a beef green curry stir fry with sweet basil (£9.40) and the phad thai (£7.40), which is the probably the least remarkable dish on the menu. But it is comforting in the same way that a phad thai eaten at the kitchen counter out of a foil container when you're hungry is.

Meat-free Tara hunkers down over a bowl of tom yam talay, a spicy sour dish of soup and noodles, adorned with prawn, squid and baby clams (£6.70). I'd say you'd have to really love seafood to contend with the pungent flavours and squiddy bits, but it seems authentic. Most importantly, everything tastes fresh and cooked with care, which appears to be too much to ask of some more expensive restaurants, never mind speed-eating chains. Apparently everything is made on site each day, with curry pastes made fresh twice a day. Now that's impressive, particularly when you're paying less than £20 a head for a proper blow-out.

Do I need to justify going to an old favourite instead of a new cutting-edge eatery? If so, I'd say wouldn't everyone want to be reminded just how good a place still is after 10 years? There are, alas, only seven Busabas, six in London and one in Oxfordshire's ritzy shopping enclave Bicester Village, but perhaps with some lobbying, Mrs Yau (who's in charge) could be persuaded to branch out...

7/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Busaba Eathai, 8-13 Bird Street, London W1, tel: 020 7518 8080 Lunch and dinner daily. £38 for two, including soft drinks

More terrific Thais

Art Kitchen

7 Swan Street, Warwick, tel: 01926 494 303

Helpful staff and beautifully cooked Thai food using top-class ingredients make this friendly, informal place in the middle of town a gem

Chiang Mai

Kemp Hall Passage, 130a High Street, Oxford, tel: 01865 202 233

Fresh and flavoursome Thai fare at what is still often hailed as the best restaurant in Oxford; it occupies an interesting (if sometimes noisy) Tudor building, just off the high street

Rim Nim Thai restaurant

Butler's Wharf, New Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, tel: 01422 846 888

Delicate Thai food makes this tiny restaurant overlooking the Rochdale Canal basin a very popular venue

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010' www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game