52-53 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8ED www.busaba.com
He may struggle with simple pronunciation, but Tom doesn’t struggle with the plates of food put in front of him at the launch of the newest BusabaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Bus-aba, boosabai, buzaba, buzabai Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this is one of the rare times I have to admit I still don’t know how to say the name of a restaurant I’m writing about. I have been told, a hundred times, but for some reason it just doesn’t stick. Boosa-ba. Oh, I don’t know.
For now we’ll call it Neil.
There are now thirteen Neils across London, and a couple up north, with the most recent opening on Eastcastle Street just off Oxford Circus. A brainchild of infamous restauranteur Alan Yau (Wagamama, Hakkasan, Duck and Rice etc) the restaurants have always, for me, represented the positive sides of chain operations; consistency, reliability and convenience, whilst somehow avoiding the negative.
It looks as though the newest Neil is carrying this torch.
On the launch night when we attend the restaurant is packed. The layout and flow, however, is well designed for this with the large square communal tables not only helping the army of wait staff glide around but also adding to the party atmosphere. Numerous Chang beers further assist.
Food, as expected, is great value and tasty.
My’Bang-Kick Prawns’ have a satisfying tempura crunch, the Thai seasoned mayo and little cubes of mango adding the sweet and salty elements needed to bring it together. The kick must’ve got lost somewhere but then perhaps the average Oxford Street shopper weighed down with Primark bags and Union Jack caps wouldn’t warm to the heat.
As mentioned, the night we attended was a bit of a launch party full of food bloggers taking top down photos of their plates (guilty) and I presume local business folk Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and so unsurprisingly the service was slick even with the vast number of covers. It would, therefore, be a little inaccurate to presume the service is as good usually, that is if it wasn’t for my other visits to Neil.
From a quick curry in Soho to a relaxed outdoor pad Thai down by the Thames in Kingston, I have always been surprised by the level of service they offer. I don’t doubt they’ll create this magical work ethic on Eastcastle Street too.
Speaking of Pad Thai, I followed the prawns with a solid one; Sen chan pad Thai. King prawns, green mango, egg and rice noodles tossed in a sweet, salty, sour sauce which kicked correctly with funky fish sauce depth. With a pile of white crab meat, crushed peanuts and a lime to squeeze over this was a plate of food not to be knocked.
My accomplice’s Bangkok king prawn stir fry didn’t disappoint either, buzzing with ginger and garlic. It was so good, in fact, he forgot about the bowl of jasmine rice it came with.
Although it’s not the most romantic side of dining out I feel it important to mention the prices at Neil, firstly because they’re fairly low and secondly because this makes it an even more perfect stop allowing for that extra Union Jack hat purchase.
Mains hover around the £9 or £10 mark with various set deals including the’Best of Busaba menu’ offering prawn crackers, a small plate, a main and unlimited fires or rice for £18.90.
It’s easy to hate chains.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Me and my wife, Helen, have lived in Little Cockingdown for over twenty-two years and the last thing we want to see is another Costa opening near the church.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I get Helen and her fella’s point, but then that’s because Costa is a bit terrible. If, however, Little Cockingdown were to get a new Neil I’d say they should be very happy
In fact, as much as I hate the idea of every high street being made up of chains, when they’re this solid I say why not. Everyone needs a post office, and a library, and a paper shop, and I think everyone also needs a Neil.
For more information visit www.busaba.com