Wednesday, August 23, 2006

One step for W1, a big step for Londoners

It was with smug delight that I came across the latest location for Alan Yau's, creator of Wagamama, Busaba Eatthai.

But first let me ward off any tipsters waiting to pounce, I am using 'latest' here to mean latest to me, not necessarily wallpaper-yet-to-dry latest. But this should never stop us. For if you applied the same principle to telly, say, you could never watch the evening news or Match of the Day, because it happened before you knew about it. Ah, unless your sensibilities are the reason we have programmes like Love Island and Big Brother. It is all coming together now. No, trend-making anxieties aside for today, let's abide by the 'if we didn't know about it, it's new to us' principle.

So I found myself strolling down Oxford Street at 9PM last night, after a brief bout of retail therapy in HMV (incidentally, how could The Best of Nina Simone be £2.99 after Christmas sales and £13.99 after summer ones?) and The Gap (sorely disappointing this season ladies, I am afraid), looking for a quick 'fill a hole' bite to eat. As it were, I was en route to Wagamama's when I stumbled upon (used with literal intent) Busaba Eathai, the Thai restaurant with an unpronounceable, imperceptible logo. But, rather than generate confusion it generates interest (the queues at the Wardour Street location are legendary).

And finding the front door, is nothing compared to the game of decoding the mystery symbols on the doors of the loos. The figures depicted above are not stick figure erotica after all, they signpost the restrooms. But rather than simply being Thai for male and female, they instead depict the positions either sex adopt in order to urinate. With that sort of conversation piece, who needs to finance Yau's retirement with Hakkasan prices?

Comparisons with Wagamama are inevitable, but Busaba Eathai somehow steps it up a notch whilst keeping the recipe of no-smoking, no MSG, bench tables, great food and no reservations. Everything I had was delicious with more taste and spice than Waga's: the cod fillet stir-fry, steamed coconut rice and side of morning glory vegetables were delectable. And that bottle of house Shiraz at £12.99 is a necessity. Because we all know that red wine with spicy food washes the chilli into the tongue making your spicy food slightly more intense than before. So, go on, indulge your table-mates with a 'I'll have what she's having' When Harry Met Sally moment, and splurge for the all out experience. With an average main at £6.90, you hardly need to feel worth it.

The tables are communal, and whilst the place is buzzy, it's probably best to observe the rules of modern etiquette and switch off your mobile phone. If you have to talk, then do so quietly - the rest of the table do not want to know how fabulous those wedge heel shoes make your calves look.

3 places to find Busaba Eathai:

8-13 Bird Street, W1U (next to Selfridge's, largest and latest)
Store Street, WC1E (Bloomsbury, smallest and cosiest)
106-110 Wardour Street, W1V (Soho, tried and tested)

Opening Times:
Mon-Thurs 12 noon -11 PM
Fri-Sat 12 Noon-11:30PM
Sun 12 noon- 10:00PM


Anonymous Claire said...

It's new to me City Slicker! Will definitely check it out. A buzzy Thai place surely beats my local down and rough Thai. Good concept. Sounds like Yau is on a roll. Claire

12:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So behind, City Slicker! I would have expected you to have stopped in at Busaba many a time whilst prowling the mean streets of Soho for the latest tips and trends...

Will forgive you this time tho! ;-)

12:23 pm  
Anonymous max said...

Come on, it's been around for ages! What's amazing, though, is the way there's still a queue down the street every night. Four years later, that's quite an achievement.

12:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't know there was one by Selfridge's? Much needed around there. All I ever find is touristy Italian joints on St Christopher's place. Will give it a look.

12:26 pm  
Anonymous Tanya said...

Look at all you 'told you so' wanna be's. As predicted as well, too true too true to word there CS. I personally passed by the one on Wardour Street for the first time a few weeks back and thought I should try it. Can't wait to get your two P in, eh? I think I will leave Wardour Street to the Soho kids and head down Oxford Street to try the newer one I had no idea was there. Maybe it wont be in tattoo teenage territory. Keep grinning smug tipsters - love that phrase CS. Laters

12:31 pm  
Anonymous Ellen said...

The one on Bird Street is relatively new a year or so about and tucked away. Totally different experience to crowded Soho scene one. Not taht well known about os never have to queue that long if at all. Definietly the one to try.

12:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Max the Wardour Street one has been around and always has long queues which turns anybody that isnt a tourist or loser away. The Bloomsbury branch is only a few years old and the Bird Street less than that. So because it is crowded but not brand new means that we shouldn't know about it? I never tried it because it was so crowded but now i may with the newer locale. Have you been to Bird Street? I doubt so.... Tell me please Houdini man what will it be?

12:45 pm  
Anonymous Jan said...

Bird Street is definitely the best of the 3. I sat at a table with David Williams from Little Britain in there about a month ago. My first time ever in one but could tell from the hidden spot it was the least touristy, more trendy of the 3. Great food great prices just no desserts. Spot on CS!

12:52 pm  
Anonymous intheskywithdiamonds said...

Love the if its new to you principle. Will encouarge me to finally check out Dirty Dancing and Ghostbusters! This Thai joint sounds cool. I didnt even know about the Soho one so I guess I am so OVER?

1:21 pm  
Blogger City Slicker said...

Thanks all. I have clarified the reference so there is no confusion. I was referring to the 'latest' (okay 12-18 month old) Bird Street location in particular. Thanks for keeping City Slicker on form.

1:33 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

Does the it's new to me principle allow me to finally admit I have never read The DaVinci Code or watched Pretty Woman? If so I support your efforts City Slicker. I imagine both are worth doing just never could admit it.

2:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or me that I have never been to Tate Britain? Although I hear the current Constable exhibit is excellent. Yes I am mostly all talk.

2:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for stepping off the bandwagon of the best openings of the year malarkey and actually just giving useful tips. My eyes are stuck on the £12 bottle of wine. How rare to not get stung on the boze. Looking forward to a visit.

3:17 pm  
Anonymous max said...

Enough already, flamers ... half this blog is new to me, too. That's why I read it. It's not a competition!

I was surprised that Ms Troni hadn't been to the Wardour St Basuba before. Luckily for both of us, it turns out she has. I guess that makes us both smug tipsters :)

ps. I have been to Bird St. It's great.

3:28 pm  
Anonymous Jen said...

Yau's sisiter has a place too, in glorious Islington called Isarn and there are actually tables for two. Worth checking out.

3:38 pm  
Blogger Shep said...

Slightly off-topic but...

it doesn't matter what price it is - the Nina Simone compilation is worth taking home.

Just awesome.

(am in London this weekend but the chances of my budget stretching to...any restaurant are pretty slim. I could probably rustle up a review of the kebab shop opposite Tooting Broadway tube, at a push...)

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Ella said...

But Shep a meal here is cheaper than the £13 for a CD. C'mon make it stretch. What r u paying on petrol to come up from Devon? Also, weren't you going to send us a link to your bookshop so we can order from you instead of evil Amazon?

4:31 pm  
Blogger Shep said...

Oh ella, bless your heart! I illegally download all my music, so it was more for the law-abiding citizens. Incidentally, I did see Nina Simone play and sing live once at the Oxford Apollo - just fantastic...

The transport was sorted months ago through some superduper rail megatrain magic flying carpet saver deal. The money it cost me would just about float me a gin and tonic at the French House. If I asked for the house gin.

But all are welcome to dine here in quiet Devon - the local bar, Rumour, does an excellent meal with authentic grumpy service. Worth leaving the capital for...

8:35 pm  
Anonymous Carolyn said...

This blog is so much fun. It's a bit like (sorry CS close your eyes) - Big Brother on line and with a brain? You all develop relationships and pass information/jibes/jokes around each other and we get to read it. Most blogs have 0 comments or maybe 1. This could get addictive. Yes Shep you are right nobody pays full price for CDs or train travel. Loving the if its new to you principle City Slicker. Good night all...C

10:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely support the 'If It's New To You' campaign City Slicker. As good as the 'Just Say No To Leggings' which I am still supporting and fighting for. This Thai restaurant looks great. Why dont these places ever come to Brixton? Saying that I work so near Bond Street I cant believe I have missed it.

12:04 am  
Anonymous Ingrid said...

OK, so who is up for a meal there. It sounds very good ! :-)

12:33 am  
Anonymous Paul H said...

Ingrid I am with you sounds great. Any Thai communal style is different and worth a look. Like you're thinking.

12:41 am  
Anonymous Vicki said...

Hi City Slicker am new to your blog and am so excited to have come across it. Love the cheeky writing. You have a great voice. Am a new subscriber. Some of your lines have had me laughing all morning. A new London must. Best of luck blogger!

10:46 am  
Anonymous Kim said...

I love the if it's new to you theme. And so to play along CS, have you tried Saravanaa Bhavan a south indian veggie place near East Ham tube? Or I guess that is the opposite of the game's rules because hardly anybody knows about it. Kind of harder to find something good but popular enough but not too much to pass on. Now I like the concept even more. Will get back to this.

11:57 am  
Blogger The Lemon said...

Busaba is legendary. The queues outside the Soho venue speak for themselves.

Useful tip: go with 2 people, for some reason, in my experience, being a 3 helps you advance past the queue!

On a more latrinical note - did you take that picture of the toilet door yourself???

1:06 pm  
Blogger Will said...

Good philosophy, in the words of someone I can't remember "If I Haven't Seen It, It's New To Me".

Changing the subject slightly, I'm amazed how well Wagamama et al has done in London. I'd have thought the last thing us Londoners want to do is sit down to eat with strangers, but I stand (or rather sit) corrected.

1:47 pm  
Anonymous Samson said...

What exactly does a flamer mean max? I find it offensive as so many time sin the gay community it is thrown about with liberality. If you meant you are flamers as in you are acting gay than I am offended and disgusted. Please explain for the rest of us. I imagine City Slicker has many a gay reader because we tend to do more see more and basically take more of an interest in life outside football and beer. I doubt you want to offend all of us.

5:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um, samson, a 'flamer' is someone who sends a nasty electronic message - in max's usage it's certainly not a derogatory term for gay people!

From the Wikipedia:
Flaming is the act of posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting, usually in the social context of a discussion board on the Internet. Such messages are called flames, and are sometimes posted in response to flamebait. Flaming is said by some to be one of a class of economic problems known as The Tragedy of the Commons, when a group holds a resource (in this case, communal attention), but each of the individual members has an incentive to overuse it. Flamers usually call their flames justified attacks.

5:53 pm  
Blogger ian said...

I remember when you had to queue for ages to get into the only wagamama in town. *dons rose tinted specs* They were better then.

12:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They even have a Wagamama's in Brum now Ian :-)
Oh how things have changed
My favourite one is still the first and best: Covent Garden.

8:00 am  
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7:50 pm  

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