The Busaba Eathai restaurant on Soho's Wardour Street, London, is a popular stop-off eatery for the urban set and tourist alike. This is London's glamorous West End, so everything is becoming beautiful - the food, the staff and the décor. It offers great Thai food at affordable prices with a large selection of curries and noodle dishes but no desserts. The tables are communal, so observe the rules of modern etiquette and switch off your mobile phone. If you have to talk, then do so quietly - the rest of the table do not want to know how fabulous those flat heel shoes make your thighs look.
What makes the restaurant truly unusual, though, are the lavatories. Many inspirationally-decorated restaurants fall at the last design hurdle when it comes to toilets - often plumping for the bog standard, but highly stylish, layout and signage you will find throughout London. Busaba, however, takes the final leap by creating restrooms which are not only functional, but unique.
The first 'special' feature of the restrooms is the signage. Most toilets in the UK will have 'Gentlemen' or 'Ladies' (or if it is a French, Spanish or Italian eatery, they will have that linguistic equivalent). In Busaba they do not go for the Thai equivalent, as few people can read Thai, but rather they opt for characters which depict the positions either sex adopt in order to urinate. Therefore, the gents is indicated by a stick figure standing and leaning forward from the hip and the female version shows a figure squatting. For the uninitiated, this can take a few seconds to fathom out - and it is not unusual to see people lurking outside, waiting for someone to exit so they can be sure they are going to the correct lavatory.
Once you have found the correct loo for your gender, the real fun begins. The male toilets are small with two urinals and one cubicle; the ladies have foregone the urinals and have one extra cubicle. There are luxury soaps to wash your hands with and thick, downy paper towels to dry them off. As you enter you will see a half of a huge trough washbasin crowned by a mirror mounted upon a partial wall. The other half of this basin is shared with the adjoining restroom for the opposite sex - so while you can't actually see anybody, you can hear lots. Should it take your fancy, you can shove your hand under the partial wall and wave at the occupants next door. You'll give them the fright of their lives mind...
There are some advantages of this rather unique system, to wit:
Men can finally hear what women talk about when they go to the restrooms in pairs.
Men can be proud and share a loud bout of flatulence with a wider audience.
For every advantage, there is a disadvantage. So in the spirit of fairness, the counter-arguments are:
Women lose part of their mystery as men gain an ear on the last female refuge from a masculine world.
While passing wind in an all-male environment may earn you the respect and admiration of your fellow manly peers, it will repulse more women than it attracts.
For those of you who want great Thai food and/or for those who want to experience the brave new world of public toilets, the details for the restaurant are:
106-110 Wardour Street