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
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
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

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss