We are in the city of the Nawabs of Oudh. This is Awadhi territory. And far from feeling like I’m in a Doctor Who script, I’m in foodie heaven. Awadhi cuisine is native to Lucknow, the capital of this state of Uttar Pradesh that we’re in now. There is a lot of Mughal influence on food, yet it was the Awadhs who invented the art of slow cooking that so permeates the food we find here.
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Where to Stay in Lucknow
There are a host of places to stay in Lucknow – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Lucknow, mid-range places to stay in Lucknow, and budget accommodation in Lucknow.
Renaissance Lucknow Hotel, Lucknow:The Renaissance Lucknow Hotel is located in the downtown district of Lucknow and is considered the city’s tallest hotel. The hotel provides guests with rooms that have a flat-screen TV, a desk, a private bathroom, a dining area in selected rooms, a seating area, and a magnificent view of the vibrant city. This five-star hotel in Lucknow also offers a fine-dining experience at their on-site restaurant and cafe which not only serve exquisite food but also spectacular views of the city. Have a luxurious and relaxing visit to Lucknow by staying at the Renaissance Lucknow Hotel. See availability of the Renaissance Lucknow here.
Fortune Park BBD, Lucknow: Fortune Park BBD is ideally located at the heart of Lucknow. Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV, coffee/tea maker, a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer, iron/iron boards, free WiFi, and a safety deposit box. There’s also a buffet breakfast, access to a gym, and a roof-top swimming pool that overlooks the city. Lucknow’s Fortune Park BBD has 24-hour currency exchange services, in-house laundry, baby-sitting, and a doctor on call. The Fortune Park BBD hotel is an ideal place to stay when visiting Lucknow with its magnificent view and excellent services. Check room rates at the Fortune Park, Lucknow here.
Backpackers Den, Lucknow: The Backpackers Den is located right in the heart of Lucknow. The hostel’s rooms are air-conditioned and there is free WiFi. The hostel has a common room/lounge area and a shared kitchen. The Backpackers Den is a perfect place to stay in Lucknow on a budget, especially if you are looking for self-catering accommodation in Lucknow. Read more reviews of the Backpackers Den and check room rates and availability here.
The Nawabs of Oudh
This region was known as Oudh in British History, became part of the new Indian province of Uttar Pradesh in January 1950. It is famous for the Nawabs of Oudh and more latterly the siege (and defence) of Lucknow that spelled the beginning of the end of the British Raj. A Nawab is an honorific title given to Muslim rulers, similar to that of a British peerage. Nawabs were required to support the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor and manage the administration of a particular area.
They also had some pretty fantastic chefs, who combined Nepali and Mughal influences to create one of the reasons that we’re here. The Nawab and Awadhi Food of Lucknow.
Nawabi and Awadhi Cuisine
Here in Lucknow, we find a rich combination of the spices of cardamom and saffron alongside mutton, beef and paneer. This is definitely not vegetarian India. There are biryanis, kulchas and roti. Here we find kebabs grilled and prepared in skillets, not in a tandoor as they were in the Punjab.
Tundays – a Lucknow Institution
Our first stop was at a Lucknow institution, Tundays. Sometimes called Tunde this place is rightly famous for the taste, but also because it was originally the speciality of a one armed chef. The kebab that we eat is unique due to the 160 spices incorporated into the masala of spices that go into the kebab.
We visited the original Tundays in the Chowk (market area). It’s seriously grungy in a century old location. They only serve beef kebabs here. Glorious paratha is combined with an incredible show, as you watch your food being made.
There’s a second location on Naaz Cinema road, where we nix the option of takeaway, because we don’t want to miss all the fun of people watching! The restaurant at the back includes a separate room for women, families and us westerners. We were, as expected the only western visitors. It’s a fabulous friendly place. At this location they serve both mutton and beef kebabs. Both of which literally melt in your mouth with an explosion of spice.
The Sherwaal and Mughlai paratha are also a wonder to behold.
Awadhi Biryani at Wahids
Another Lucknow institution, Wahids has been in the city since 1955. We visited the Ahminabad location, near to the Tunday kebabs on Naaz Cinema road The outside has certainly seen better days and there are only five tables for six inside. You’ll likely end up sharing like we did. Our table sharers spoke no English, but were friendly and left us alone after a few curious stares.
The mutton biryani was melt in the mouth meat with spicy delicious rice. We had accompanying glawat mutton kebabs which also melted in the mouth with a wonderful spiciness. The mughlai paratha were the perfect way to get them into your mouth. Our biryani, glawat, mutton kebabs, two paratha and one bottle of water cost us a princely 170 INR (USD$2.55, GBP1.93). If we weren’t so full we’d have gone back for second helpings!
It’s here in Lucknow that we discover something new in our Indian food adventures. The side dish of onion. Sometimes known as onion lachcha, it’s and served with salt, pepper and wedges of lemon, it’s a Moorish and addictive addition to the way in which I now eat Indian food. Squeeze the lemon over the thinly sliced onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. It’s so simple, yet amazing.
Sheermal is a slightly sweet naan made from wheat flour, warm milk, sugar and yeast. It’s flavoured with saffron and then baked in a tandoor. Sheermal is also traditionally made in Iran, Bangladesh, and Hyderbad as well as here in Lucknow.
When we take the Heritage Walk with UP Tourism, one of the place we visit is a silversmith. But they’re not selling jewellery here. This silver is to enhance desserts and sweets. It’s known as vark. It’s used to add value (ha, yes) to desserts. It shows wealth and apparently has some health benefits, although it’s not clear what they might be. It used to be thought of as an aphrodisiac.
Fennel Seeds – Clearing your palate
An Indian restaurant in the west provides a plate or bowl of sugar coated candy at the end of a meal. Usually this is something fennel flavoured covered in a sugary coating, but, I’ve never been a fan. Here in India that is sometimes available, however, you will more likely find the straight fennel seed. Or a combination. It’s palate cleansing and refreshing.
The Nawabi and Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow is reason alone for visiting this first city of Uttar Pradesh, make the trip. Your taste buds will thank you for it!
Like Indian food and drink enough to travel for it? Here’s our guide to Awadhi Cuisine in Lucknow, and check out what to eat in Amritsar in the Punjab. Then there’s our guide on what to eat in Jaipur and how to get a beer in Fort Kochi. If you’re more of a wine drinker, then our guide to Indian wine tasting is here.
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