Tara Tari, Swiss Cottage, London

Some continental bits

Some continental bits

    Set Menu:

Location: Tara Tari, 117 Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 6HY (nearest tube station is Swiss Cottage)
Date of Visit: Friday 28th February
Time of Table: 7.00pm
Deal Bought From: Wowcher
Deal Price: £19 for Two
Dinner Companion: Twin sister, Jess

Salad section

Salad section

    Getting More for your Money?

This dinner deal includes:
• All you can eat round the world buffet selection
• Two drinks

Apple crumble and custard

Apple crumble and custard

    What we ate…

Cuisines included:
• Indian
• Italian
• Japanese
• Continental
• Chinese
• Thai
• Mexican

What we drank…
• Two glasses of house white wine each

Inside Tara Tari

Inside Tara Tari

    What did we think?

After a long week at work, it’s an absolutely brilliant feeling to know that you have dinner date all set for Friday night – especially if the said dinner is an all you can eat buffet. Tara Tari was almost luminescent as it glowed a husky burnt red-orange with its vibrant neon welcome, simply location across the road from Swiss Cottage tube station, at the end of exit three. Leaving the rain and cold wind behind us, entering Tara Tari is very much like entering a warm and welcoming bubble. Immediately to the left of the entrance, the gleaming dark wooden bar is piled high with spirit bottles and a promise of a relaxing evening, whilst a low sofa and coffee table are arranged as a casual waiting spot.

Simply dressed tables

Simply dressed tables

The most striking aspect of the décor is undoubtedly the fantastically animated wall art. The leaning tower of Piza nonchalantly pointed at a classic red London phone box, which was sat next to an elaborate Japanese Geisha, all painted in the restaurant’s trademark hues of sunset orange, mustard yellow and sepia shades of brown and black. Funky phrases were splashed across the backdrops in different languages, really emphasising their all inclusivity when looking at cultures and cuisines. It was so easy to be fascinated by the multitude of painted images as they covered every inch of wall space, each snapshot depicting another culture reflected in the foods presented in the buffet. I particularly liked the paintings as they looked natural and fun; not overdone in the slightest. Square orange lit pillars between the tables almost acted as a lit up runway, directing hungry diners down to the far end of the restaurant where the buffet spread was laid out in hub of bright white walls.

Fajita time

Fajita time

The one problem with buffets such as this one is table space, or should I say, lack of it. If you are going in a large group then the bigger tables were well spaced and separated. However the pesky tables for two were far more squashed in with a matter of mere inches to sever the tables either side of you. If you were hoping for deep and meaningful conversation over dinner, then this wouldn’t be the scene for you as you could hear the conversations of your neighbours, and if you were particularly self-conscious, you may not like to talk when people can overhear you so easily. This style of table setting is very common in this genre of restaurant however, so I wasn’t surprised or overly bothered by the set up – I was just looking forward to getting stuck in to the food.

Piled plateful!

Piled plateful!

Our voucher including a drink each, and we were offered the choice of a glass of the house white or red, although we could also opt for a soft drink each if we preferred. We both decided on the white wine, which was a good choice as it was soft and fruity with a darker yellow hue than some of the dryer wines which I dislike. It was actually really palatable and I enjoyed slurping it down with my food.

The waiter, who showed us to our table, was extremely polite and personable, asking us how we were and if we had ever been to the venue before. He explained that we could go up to the buffet as many times as we wanted, have as many plates as we wanted and have them piled as high as we wanted. Our tummies rumbled just thinking about it! The only restriction was that they had a table turnaround of two hours, however I didn’t view that as a problem, since we didn’t have to wait around ordering food and waiting for it to be cooked – it was all ready and waiting.

View of the buffet

View of the buffet

The buffet was presented in a horseshow shape, with a small square show kitchen in the centre, which I think was doing some of fresh noodle stir fry, as we occasionally saw bright bursts of high flying flames lick eagerly at the ceiling in a very flashy fashion. The first section, so to speak, was a salad area, with a mix of green salads, cous cous, potato salad, coleslaw and typical salad veg such as baby tomatoes and beetroot. This was the one main cold section as all of the other food was hot and hiding within great silver globes that were lined up on the surfaces. The next patch seemed to be Chinese and Thai style foods, with a classic chow mein, next to a chicken and cashew dish, Thai green curry, and fish in garlic butter to name a few. There were four different kinds of rice to choose from as well, which was great for helping to mop up all the saucy juices I was pouring on to my plate. From chicken rice, egg fried rice, pilau rice and plain rice, I sampled the Indian style chicken rice and pilau – both of which were light and fluffy and an ideal accompaniment.

Hot food buffet

Hot food buffet

Another hot buffet section was situated on the back of the show kitchen, with some Indian side nibbles such as samosas, tandoori chicken wings and chicken tikka bites but this was also the beginning of the Mexican section. Whilst crunching on a prawn cracker, you could assemble your own chicken fajita, using the wraps, sour cream, salsa and guacamole provided, the inside piled high with the tender chicken, onion and pepper mix. I also made sure that I grabbed some garlic bread and margarita pizza at this point, as I thought it would be perfect for mopping up the sauce on my plate. Next on the agenda was the continental section, with a splash of Italian with a typical pasta Bolognese and chicken in a white mushroom sauce.

London style art

London style art

The section I was probably most excited about, and that was also the largest, was the Indian section. I made sure to get spoonfuls of the delicious spinach side dish, as well as try the vegetarian chickpea and potato curry in a wonderful tomato sauce. They had my favourite chicken tikka masala, which I made sure to get bundles off to ooze orangely over my rice, although I also nabbed some lamb curry as well. There were a few other bits and pieces, but these were labelled as hot, and although I like a bit of spice, I know that anything clearly labelled hot is probably a bit overpowering for my taste buds.

Continental combinations

Continental combinations

The long and short of the matter is; I really went for it. Since I loved all of the genres of cooking that featured in the buffet, it meant that every section was a tantalizing treat to the nostrils, and being a self-serve buffet, there were no restrictions or time for good manners and small portions. Since I don’t eat much Indian food at home, I had more of that than anything but I loved all of the food. Each dish still had a distinct flavour and separate taste, despite all being mingled on my plate, yet what I also loved is how well all the different foods complemented each other. The meat was all cooked perfectly and was tender and juicy sitting in its chosen sauce. I think my particular favourites would be the spinach dish and the chickpea dish from the Indian section as well as the divine chicken tikka masala, however, I have to say I also made myself a mean chicken fajita, which was also delicious, the bread of the wrap lovely and soft, the salsa a fresh hit yet not too strong and spicy.

Gorgeous Geisha

Gorgeous Geisha

After far too many plates of the scrumptious main course selection, we then went up to check out what was on offer for dessert. In the cold section was a selection of cakes, including classic chocolate fudge cake and a rum baba style nibble. There was also rice pudding and jelly. Hidden beneath yet another silver globe was a thinly layered apply crumble, sat next to a vat of bubbling yellow custard. The only problem with the crumble was that it was a little on the thin side, but also you weren’t given proper serving spoons to dish up, so using a normal spoon to try and ladle custard was a pain to be honest. A rippling chocolate fountain sat awaiting plump marshmallows to smother them in sauce but the main dessert attraction was undoubtedly the freshly made pancakes, made by one of the servers while you waited. With an array of sauces and toppings, personalising your pancake was a doddle – I went for a banoffee sauce, scattering chocolate raisins and mini marshmallows in there as well. The pancake was a really nice thickness and perfectly cooked, so I really enjoyed that. The cakey treats were also lovely, not being overly heavy, especially as they were cut into small squares so they were more bite sized chunks. The rice pudding was a tad bland and it seemed more sauce than actual rice grains. I have a serious custard addiction so I think I may have gone overboard when drowning my portion of crumble, but hey, you can’t deny an all you can eat buffet.

Dessert choices

Dessert choices

After dessert, we had to sit and wallow for a bit as I think we stretched the all you can eat mantra a smidge too far, but with such a varied and interesting mix of foods available, it’s incredibly difficult to say no, or indeed, stop eating!

Making a second reservation? I would if I was in the area yes. As an idea, it isn’t very unique. Cheap foreign cuisine buffets have been springing up everywhere, and I even have a couple of Chinese focused ones in my local area that are easier to get to. Saying that however, none of the all you can eat buffets I have been to recently have had the same scope of international flavours as Tara Tari, and they haven’t been executed as well. Yes there may only be one or two dishes from certain cuisines, but there is still that array available if you choose, as well as there being a mix of meat based and vegetarian options. The majority of the dishes were chicken based, so not a great mix for meat lovers which is a bit of a shame, but there is plenty of go around. I liked all of the dishes that I sampled and I couldn’t find fault with the flavours and textures. The only downside is that where everything is so accessible, I most certainly overate, meaning that I did feel rather queasy on my tube ride home, but I can hardly blame the restaurant for providing me with too much tasty food!

Pancake time!

Pancake time!

The voucher was a complete steal, at £19 for two people, which included the buffet and a drink each so that’s less than a tenner for unlimited food – brilliant! We has an extra glass of the house white each which came to a grand total of £7 to pay at the end of the night between us, which I think has to be the cheapest dinner bill we’ve had yet!

Pick and mix your food

Pick and mix your food

It may not be the most glamorous, stylish or upmarket venue in the world, but it does what it says on the tin. It provides a minimum of two dishes per style of cuisine and it provides at least five or six different cuisines at one sitting, as well as dessert and salad. Nothing ever seemed to run out, and the staff was constantly on the move clearing plates, re-stocking the food or just generally helping someone out. They were also very polite on all occasions, letting you know where clean plates and cutlery could be found when they tidied up your dirty dishes. It was quite loud and hectic with the buzz of people up and down from their chairs and the hustle and bustle around the buffet was constantly thriving – it was evident that the main mission of the place was to provide a mix of cultural food cheaply, which they did and did well to be fair. You know what you are letting yourself in for, so it just depends what you want from your night out really. For two hungry city workers who were glad Friday had finally shown its face, it fit the bill nicely, despite the manic feel of the restaurant. I would have liked to pace and ambience to be a touch slower and calmer maybe, but I have a feeling that this style of restaurant may be the next in the ladder of fast food. Great price though, so that makes it a winner.

Italian anyone?

Italian anyone?

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