Wagamama and Hakkasan founder Alan Yau is set to launch Naamyaa, a sister restaurant brand to Busaba Eathai with a more approachable, all-day focused Thai dining style, this autumn in London.
Naamyaa will be loosely based on the eclectic cafés of Bangkok that offer authentic Thai dishes alongside Western items.
Designed by David Archer, who worked on Aaya and Hakkasan, the site for the inaugural unit is part of a new development in London’s Angel Building on the crossroads between City Road and Upper Street.
Like Busaba, the new format will require large sites, typically between 100 and 120 covers.
The 10-strong Busaba restaurant brand does well in its current locations but Yau believes the look, price and high authenticity of the proposition is holding it back from significant expansion, particularly in shopping malls, airports and certain cities and towns outside London.
The chain currently operates nine sites in London plus a unit in Oxfordshire’s Bicester Village designer outlet centre.
Busaba will continue to expand, but Yau gives the impression that the focus will be on its little sister for the time being with more London locations already under consideration.
"I simply want to do something more accessible," says Yau. "The interior of Busaba is very ethnic and dark, it’s a night time orientated offering. Naamyaa will be lighter; it’s a cafe rather than a restaurant. The price of Busaba has inevitably gone up over the years, when we launched it was around £12 per head but now it’s more like £18."
Phoenix Capital Partners, who brought Busaba back in 2008, are backing the project. Yau is still very much involved, as is his wife, Busaba managing director Jale Erentok.
While Busaba’s food offering is highly authentic, Naamyaa will reflect Bangkok’s increasing culinary diversity with influences from the West as well as Thailand’s more immediate neighbours.
The menu has not yet been finalised but will revolve around 10 regional Thai curries (Naamyaa means pot), all served with condiments and kanom jin noodles, and Bangkok street food dishes.
It will also offer some more familiar Western dishes with Thai influences, but Yau stresses that Naamyaa is not a fusion or themed proposition. Non-Thai items such as breakfast pastries will be available to establish the chain as an all-day player while spend is anticipated to be around £13 per head.
"Busaba is a pure Thai experience, Naamyaa will be more eclectic," adds Yau. Naamyaa will offer a very high quality product but it’s been designed to appeal to a more diverse audience."
For an exclusive interview with Alan Yau pick up the next issue of Restaurant magazine , in which the creative force behind Wagamama and Hakkasan talks about immigration, expansion and the possibility of a Chinese McDonald's.