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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn