Busaba Eathai, a chain of eateries across 12 London locations, truly epitomises the Thai dining experience. On entering one of its establishments at St Christopher’s Place, the floating gerberas and tea lights combined with the fragrant waft of jasmine incense instil a feeling of calm. The stress of waiting in a queue for a table dissipates and the anticipation for what lies inside takes over.
After you manoeuvre down the long corridor, the big reveal is impressive with its dimly lit interior full of symmetrically placed wooden tables ending with a sleek bar at the far end. The majestic central light feature on each table is reminiscent of lanterns ready for release and gives you the feeling of stepping onto a Thai beach at night. Each creates a spotlight on the table, giving a theatrical feel to the room and the low-slung wooden ceiling creates an intimate, cosy setting.
On entering the restaurant, the interactions of small groups clustered at the corners of square, communal tables, created a relaxed yet buzzing atmosphere. Sitting in this way worked to our favour as we stole the occasional glance at our neighbours’ food, which aided the selection process. However when looking around the room, the communal aspect worked less effectively with larger groups who were less able to engage together across such a large table.
With the vast numbers of customers to serve simultaneously, you might risk being lost in the crowd, and yet the staff were surprisingly attentive throughout the course of the evening. Guava became the theme of the evening as the bartender delivered a Guava Bellini (Prosecco and guava juice) and a Guava Collins, (a non-alcoholic concoction of coconut, limes, guava and lime juice). The latter was particularly refreshing and a winning blend of flavours. On looking at the menu, their highly recommended Thai calamari with its promise ‘of a secret glaze’ intrigued me so there was little hesitation when ordering. The subtlety of the spice was just right and the ginger and green peppercorn combined well to give it a slight kick. It came as no surprise that this was their signature dish and it was a good alternative to serving calamari with more commonly used citrus flavours. The soft shell crab was equally moreish, with a crunchy fried batter shell enveloping a soft flavoursome centre, well complemented by a rich oyster sauce on the side.
The choice of mains caused much deliberation with the menu’s vast offerings of curries, stir-fries, noodle soups, pad Thai dishes, rice sets and fish. The Mussaman Duck Curry was finally selected and accompanied with the delicious coconut flavoured rice, a recommendation from our waitress. The duck was beautifully tender, and well-balanced with the occasional bite of soft potato and crunchy peanut, and the sauce was full of flavour with hints of cinnamon and star anise.
It’s safe to say we were well looked after and our Busaba Eathai experience was a memorable one. The service was friendly and efficient, though the slightly rushed feel suggested that this was the place for an ad hoc or a pre-show bite, rather than for a long, leisurely dinner. Either way, if you’re looking for good quality Thai food in London at very reasonable prices, this is the place to go.