Thursday, 22 November 2012

Busaba Eathai, Bicester Village

Despite the cute clapperboard buildings and twinkling lights, the outlet shopping centre Bicester Village is never going to feel much like a real village, and it's a slightly bleak place where I wouldn't want to spend too much time. But I imagine that a lot of visitors make a day of it, which is probably why there's quite a wide range of restaurants and cafes, from the French-style Villandry to yet another Jamie Oliver franchise. After an hour or two of browsing we decided to try the Thai option, Busaba Eathai, which is part of a small chain owned by the founder of Wagamama (but I tried not to hold that against it).
'Eathai' is a combination of 'eat' and 'Thai'. I'm not sure about 'Busaba'.

The sleek and cosy interior is an immediate contrast to what's outside, with lots of dark wood and low lighting; there is also a less stylish conservatory which proved a bit draughty in November. The square tables are big enough for eight or nine people, although on our visit groups were seated individually and there wasn't much of a canteen atmosphere. Still, the menu, which includes old favourites like Pad Thai alongside less famous dishes, is tempting and well thought out, and lists the ingredients of each dish in a way that makes them sound simple and healthy (as I'm sure most of them are). Various exotic drinks are also on offer, and I enjoyed a (non-alcoholic - I think) guava collins (£3.30). I could taste the added lime and coconut and it was fruity and sweet without being sickly, although it came in a rather small glass.
Generally the food was pretty good too. Crabmeat egg fried rice (£6.90) arrived looking like a side dish but contained enough meat and egg to be satisfying, and the rice had a pleasantly dry, appetising consistency. The contrast of textures was a strength of the Som tam (green papaya salad with dried shrimp and tomato; £6.90) and it was surprisingly spicy, although I'm not sure the papaya had a distinctive flavour. Spring rolls (£3.90) were OK, but the Pad kwetio (noodles, smoked chicken, prawns and 'holy basil'; £8.30) was definitely superior to other Thai noodles I've tried. I think someone had bothered to design this dish: the different vegetables and other ingredients hadn't been just chucked in, and the noodles had a distinctive and tasty smokiness. Credit is also due to Busaba for doing as the Photographer asked and making his order extra-spicy.
Portions were reasonably filling but not huge, and we felt some of the dishes, not least my salad and the spring rolls, were a bit overpriced. I suppose that's only to be expected, given the amount of money sloshing around in the adjacent shops. Still, the staff were hard working and friendly (well done to them for that, as they must have to deal with a constant stream of customers all day) and this is a pleasant place for a decent meal. I'm not sure I'd go to Bicester Village especially to eat at Busaba, but I'd be happy to pause there mid-shop again.

Bicester Village
OX26 6WD

01869 362700


Square Meal

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