Alan Yau OBE, a serial restauranteur, without him there wouldn’t be Busaba, Wagamama, Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Duck & Rice or Park Chinois for that matter. The man’s list is ever growing and his pursuit of restaurant projects is unrelenting. In 1999, the first Busaba Eathai restaurant on Wardour Street opened – there’s always a throng of people queuing outside and yes I’ve eaten there a few times and I really liked it. Yau sold the chain in 2008 for £21.5m, you don’t need me to tell you that’s a an unthinkable amount of money. He did the same with Hakkasan and Yauatcha for $60 million – rarely can you utter posh and Chinese food in the same sentence – this guy made it happen for the mainstream for the aforementioned two. Anyway I’m here for some Busaba action in Kingston, a leafy Surrey town south west of London, where it joins a list of other chains overlooking the Thames.
I saw Pad thai on the menu, it’s a crowd pleaser for the stomach obsessed, yes me, I relish a good one. Why wouldn’t you? This one, coming in at £9.95 has prawns and other trinkets of Chinese chives, dried shrimp and tofu. I can confirm though that this is an underwhelming one, with enamel stripping levels sweetness. Ouch. The noodles were also short due to their overcooking, done the right way they stay long and have an undeniable chew – the barometer of how good ones should be cooked.
Som tam is green papaya salad with more dried shrimp, peanuts, green beans and tomatoes. Done right, it will have a broad shouldered punch of heat from chillis, sour notes of lime and the funk of fish sauce. This one has all of it’s dignity erased with sugar in the interest of cloying your palate for the rest of the afternoon.
Mussaman duck leg £13.50 was joyous in a way that the flesh just slipped off the bone, but in the same vein as the rest, the mawkishly sweet sauce was offensive to my teeth. I wanted to put the dish in a tow sack and throw it into the Thames.
One thing they do well here is sticky rice, even if it does cost £3.50, it does come with a sauce sodden bamboo basket.
My sheer greed can make a dent is a meal even if it lacks.
When did I go? Sept 2018
The damage: Expect to pay £20/25 per head with a drink
The good: The view.
The bad: Ok, so I’m not an authenticity queen, but the food here certainly tastes like it’s a taken a sugary death grip to cater for someone who likes everything to taste like dessert. A good thing going for it is that it didn’t break the bank and it’s over-looking scenic surroundings.
Would I go again? It would take a lot of convincing!
Address: 4 Riverside Walk, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1QN