Who said you have to be blue, on blue Monday? I’m not sure I really believe that one day in January in particular needs to be marked officially as the UK’s most depressing day of the year, because that’s depressing in itself. However, if you believe the hype, the big blue day is tomorrow, Monday 16th January. So my advice is to go easy on yourself, pour yourself a soothing pot of tea, take some time to enjoy a nourishing bite to eat and ignore any talk of feeling blue. Personally, I’ll be taking the Busaba Eathai approach, inspired by the philosophy of Sookjai based on traditional Buddhist values, which is all about ‘avoiding the everyday chaos that distracts you’ and instead, placing the emphasis on ‘taking life as it comes and creating your own reality.’ Sookjai can also mean ‘to enjoy’ or to have a ‘happy heart’ with a secondary mantra, Gan Gin Gan Yuu, meaning ‘as you eat, so you are’. Now, isn’t that much better than focussing on feeling blue?
Here is St Albans we officially welcomed a trendy new eatery called Busaba Eathai St Albans in the late autumn. You may have seen my posts across social media during various visits. I hadn’t eaten at any of the Busaba chains previously, but had walked past the Covent Garden branch a few times longing to go in. Busaba Eathai are popping up in some incredibly up-and-coming places, such as Shoreditch, Hoxton Square, the 02, Soho, Bloomsbury, Westfield London & Stratford City, and also in Manchester and Liverpool – so I think St Albans can now officially claim its place on the ‘trendy eateries’ map.
Having peeked through the windows during the renovations of Busaba St Albans on Verulam Road a few times, catching a glimpse of the exposed brick walls of the bar and an open kitchen, I was expecting something of a laid-back canteen style of Thai street food, perhaps something like Wagamama. But when Busaba St Albans opened and I stopped by with some foodie friends for the press night I was completely blown away by the transformation of a previously unremarkable corner restaurant space in into a stylish, high-end, New York loft-style Thai restaurant complete with golden Budda’s, deep, dark wood and a beautiful bar. My goodness, even the toilets were stylish enough to make me want to take pictures of the loo cubicles (I was 12 months in my own house design back then and looking very closely at bathrooms!) There is a communal feeling in the way that some of the square tables are laid out, but overall, Busaba Eathai offers a stylish, modern and spacious interior with a chic vibe.
As well as the main central space filled with tables, there is an area for larger private parties as you go up the staircase to the bathrooms on the mezzanine level, a number of good tables along the windows and tables outside which I’m sure will become popular in warmer months. By day, Busaba feels relaxed and welcoming of children, as well as offering quieter tables for those wanting a business lunch.
Though St Albans is becoming a little chain-restaurant-saturated, it seems we can’t get enough of Thai food, and Busaba’s trendy feel matched with Bangkok-inspired dining is sure to succeed. The unit had been empty for a long while, following the closure of Cinta Garden – a Chinese restaurant which had become a little tired and which ended its days with the reputation of being something of a hen-do hotspot. The refurbishment and investment of the Busaba chain into the outdoor Christopher Place Shopping Centre, a short stroll from The Cathedral and Abbey of St Albans, has worked. However, the people of St Albans are a discerning crowd, so Busaba need to focus on fast, attentive and friendly service to make friends and encourage repeat visits.
After the renovations, Busaba was officially opened with a traditional Buddhist tea ceremony, which I loved reading about. The press night that followed was a little more excitable as we washed down a selection of items from the Busaba St Albans with some particularly amazing cocktails. If you go, you must order the whisky plum sour (with bourbon, umeshu plum liqueur, lemon, grapefruit and bitters) and the Asian Mojito (with rum, citrus, kaffir lime leaves and sugar) – or really any of the cocktails offered on the menu which compliment the spicy flavours of Busaba’s Bangkok-style cuisine brilliantly. For non-drinkers, there are also some pretty special lassies and smoothies and freshly blended juices. And don’t forget to end your meal with a pot of loose leaf tea and have yourself your very own Buddhist tea ceremony at the table – I like the Busaba Coconut and Pineapple blend which is a great palate cleanser.
As to the food, there is lots to chose from including their Bangkok Express Lunch Menu (£8.95), the Best of Busaba menu (£18.90), small plates (I love the Crispy Chicken Wings or the Thai Calamari, with ginger and green peppercorn). The menus also include Stir-Frys, Wok Noodles, Noodles Soups and Curries, Rice Sets and Bangkok Chargrilled dishes. I liked the Thai chicken wings and the prawn and asparagus stir fry and I’ve also tried the chargrilled duck, which was tender and served with a tamarind sauce and sticky rice.
I’ve also eaten there on a separate occasion with my kids and they enjoyed tucking into the Children’s menu – particularly the chicken fried rice and the battered Thai chicken fillets.
In fact, there isn’t anything on the menu that I wouldn’t want to try – be it for an express lunch or a romantic dinner and it has definitely become my go-to place for a quick Bangkok street-food style fix.
If you’re quick, you can register online today for Busaba’s Blue Monday 99p deal – you’ll get an email tomorrow then present your code and tuck in to a choice of 9 indulgent Bangkok dishes, from classic Pad Thai and crabmeat fried rice to chargrilled chicken and green chicken curry for just 99p each.
Alternatively, Busaba are also be offering 25% off food throughout January 2017 to lift your spirits all month long – which I think is a great offer and will definitely banish any sign of the January blues! Don’t forget to register online (again it can take up to 24 hours for the email to come through) and check that your local restaurant are offering this deal. Some are even offering up to 50% off the bill.
Follow this link to find out more about their January Sale here, simply pick your nearest location and register.
Disclosure: With thanks to Busaba St Albans for welcoming us on their opening press night where we enjoyed a complimentary meal, drinks and a take home goodie bag. On all other occasions I have paid full price for my meals and have received no incentive to write positively about my food experiences there. All photos are courtesy of Busaba Eathai and are used with their permission.
Are you a Busaba fan? Share your experiences and let me know in the comments below.