A short walk from Finchley Central tube, and in a secondary shopping parade, this Indian restaurant (established in 1984) looks like thousands of others. Even when you step inside, despite a recently re-decoration in deep reds and black, it still feels like an ordinary Indian restaurant.
The restaurant space is broken up with an archway leading through to more dining tables; photos of old Indian city scenes and wall hangings complete the look.
The place is fairly busy on a weekday evening – mainly with couples. Background music is unobtrusive and as you would expect, it’s a fairly casual place. Staff are friendly and attentive.
Just when your heart is about to sink a little, the Gujarati food puts in a stellar appearance. A big feature of this place is the serve-yourself buffet, the preferred option for most of the diners. Food is freshly cooked and includes Indian favourites as well as some more unusual dishes.
Starters may include bhel poori – a concoction of onion, puffed rice, coriander, tamarind and potato in natural yogurt; and masala dosa – a crispy waffle-like rice creation crammed with potato and onion. Then there is stuffed idli – with sambar to accompany it; and stuffed aloo (potato) papri chaat. With a large bowl of freshly made salad - green leaves, tomato, peppers - and 12 pickles and condiments from which to choose, those are just the starters.
Mains include murcha paneer (tomato and peppers), banana methi (funugreek) or chana dal (chick pea) or a choice of another five. The paneer is not rubbery but deliciously fresh and the accompanying sauce has a depth of flavour, but is not overly spicy. The main meals all taste different – not just a selection of the same vegetables in different sauces, a common Indian restaurant failure. A few fried hot options add a touch of wickedness to your plate: mogo, potato or onion bhajee and a choice of rice adds a final flourish. All the items are clearly labelled so those on special diets, such as dairy-free, wheat-free, nut-free are well catered for.
For dessert they serve up a lovely shrikhand (made from yogurt and cardamom) with a fresh and well-presented soft fruit salad. The buffet is a bargain £15 per head, and choices change regularly.
The drinks here are those you would expect: a white and red house wine and a small choice of soft drinks. It’s as well that all you really need is a glass of cold Cobra beer to accompany your feast.
The Last Word
For vegetarian Indian food, there are few places that can beat this, especially at these prices. You’d probably have to go for India for that.