Founded in Soho in 1999 by visionary restaurateur Alan Yau – the man behind Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Wagamama – Busaba was sold long ago and rolled out around prime central London locations, including this one at the 02.
Despite no longer being a one-off on Wardour Street, the central idea remains the same, and this Busaba shares the family similarities with its siblings. Slatted wood on the windows summons the spirit of a traditional Thai teak house, lanterns hang from the ceiling inside while seating is on benches around big square communal tables, with bottles of soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha chilli sauce in the middle.
The menu is based around a core of never-changing classics supplemented with dishes that come and go (we’ve never got over the loss of the mooli cakes with spring onions). Small plates function as the equivalent of a starter or can be ordered like tapas to share, while main course-sized portions take in dishes from the wok, rice bowls, red and green curries, grills plus a trio of pad Thais.
Some of our personal favourites include calamari, tossed in the wok until the flesh turns sticky and served in a sauce of whole peppercorns; chicken satay with a peanut sauce so good you’ll want a side order of flaky roti to mop up any leftovers; the protein hit of chilli beef jasmine rice, fragrant with sweet basil and topped with a fried egg; and the classic king prawn pad Thai.
Kids get dishes specially selected for smaller appetites, with a snack, main and a drink for a brilliant-value £6.50, while a separate vegan menu substitutes veg for meat and fish with no loss of flavour – though be warned that a common criticism of Busaba is that spice levels are far less hot than you’d find in Thailand. Another gripe is that some of the pricing now veers into independent restaurant territory; avoid the grills and stick to the noodle and rice dishes if you’re after bang for your buck.