We all have those go-to easy pleaser spots on our lists. You know the ones. The pizza express types, where you know food will be decent, and even if service isn’t top notch, you’re not paying too much so it doesn’t make you hate the place. Note: Pizza Express has actually surprised me recently.
Busaba Eathai is one of those for me. A spot I can always rely on for a good catch up with the girls. Service isn’t always that great, but they have something tasty for most on the menu, and you know you’ll probably get a space – no queuing for an hour for this place.
A number of large sharer tables and the odd small table for two make up the Shoreditch branch, radiating that European dining vibe. With dark and earthy furniture and decor, it feels chic and sophisticated, yet atmospheric from the dimmed lighting.
Service is pretty hit and miss, but in my experience the menu is pretty reliable. With a variety of starters and mains featuring everything you’d expect from a Thai like pad Thai, chicken laksa and green curry, and more. There’s also a dessert menu for those who have space – I always fill up on rice or noodles!
We visited early enough recently to order from the Bangkok early evening set menu, limiting our options slightly, which is meant to make choosing that much easier – I can honestly say…it didn’t. Spotting a number of the new summer dishes for the small plate options, these were a must, but the choice between a trusty Pad Thai, The Bang Kapi Katsu and the Chilli Beef Jasmine Rice was a ridiculously tough decision for someone so tired after work.
Although the menu is listed like other places – small plates followed by mains – it does all come out at the same time. Something they don’t always specify when ordering, and something which threw me off balance – I nearly sent the waiter back. Whoops.
The Avocado and Asian Hot Mint Salad (a new addition to the menu), was a mix of creamy avo, leafy mint, spring onion, potent ginger, chilli, fresh coriander and crunchy toasted peanuts, all drizzled in a light sweet chilli lime dressing. Very fresh and slightly tart from the mix of ginger and herbs, it was really tasty, and a great mix of textures.
The Son-in-Law Eggs (another newbie), deep fried soft-boiled organic Arlington eggs, were served in a delicious sticky sweet tamarind sauce, topped with crispy shallot onions, dried chilli and fresh coriander leaves. The yolk semi-runny, the eggs kept form when served in halves. Something I wouldn’t usually order (I’m a calamari fan!), these made for a tasty starter...well side dish.
The Chilli Beef Jasmine Rice was another new experience for me, selected above a Pad Thai (I know…am insane?). A bed of Jasmine rice, topped with flavoursome chilli minced beef, fresh Thai basil and a wok fried egg, it was definitely a good choice. Listed on the menu with three chilli symbols (the hottest), it sure had a kick to it. The wok fried egg was cooked through, not runny, but chopped up and stirred into the beef and rice it added an extra flavour and texture. Rich and very filling, the portion was generous.
The Bang Kapi Katsu, or Chicken Katsu, to me is on the same level as a pad Thai – a go-to dish which always pleases. The panko breaded curry marinated chicken was crispy yet tender, served with a fresh and juicy pickled ginger and green mango salad, a side of fragrant jasmine rice and a thick and creamy aromatic katsu curry sauce. Delicious, the portion was just as generous.
The sparkling presses (both on the soft drinks to save ourselves for the weekend), were a refreshing and delicious accompaniment to our meals.
At just under £18 each for our two plates, soft drinks and service, it’s not too bad for a mid-week early evening dinner. Service might not have been shining, but the food was good and it was a fab spot for a catch-up.
Where are your go-to spots for a decent meal?