A couple of people I know swear by DUM Biryani in Soho. Which is a whole lot better than swearing at it, obviously. For me, it remains on my list – and, nerdily, it is an ACTUAL list – of places I really need to go to that I’ve just not gotten around to yet. Which is one of the reasons I’m delighted to have got into their new sister place, Lucknow 49, within a week of opening.
The other reason is that it’s a little cracker. Service is brilliant, fun, and friendly and the food, even this early, is great. If they’re ticking along like this after seven days, I suspect this won’t be my last visit to Lucknow 49.
Set in the “other” bit of Maddox Street – not the stretch just off Regent Street with Goodman and that flower-covered, massively Instagrammable place – it’s a relatively quiet bit of town. Founder Dhruv Mittal – like me, a former banker, and very unlike me, a former chef at The Fat Duck – sees that as a good thing. “No other restaurants here,” he says, gesturing to the galleries and the like outside. I think that’ll be academic; people would be coming here wherever he opened.
Like the Soho “original”, dishes here are typically cooked “dum” style, essentially the Asian equivalent of “low and slow.” It’s also heavily flavoured – Dhruv explains to us that the Gosht Raan Masala, a chunk of lamb leg cooked for hours, uses some 60 spices, while other dishes have 30+ – in the Lucknowi regional style. I’ll bow to more knowledgeable Indian food experts on that one. All I can confirm is the results are delicious.
The menu is admirably short – opening to two horizontal A4 pages, one of food, one of drinks (of Indian-inspired cocktails, a made-for-the-restaurant-beer and a concise wine list compiled by Zeren Wilson, who’s a master of such things).
“We’d recommend two or three starters between two,” explains one of several charming and attentive staff, “two curries, one briyani and a side.” And, so, that’s what we do: Dal Kachori Bhalla Chaat – lentil stuffed flatbread, rice dumplings, yoghurt, tamarind and coriander chutney is just really, really nice, and a suitably cooling and crunchy counterpoint to the Galawat Kawab – heavily spiced melting beef patties created, it’s said, for a toothless nawab – and Goshy Barrah Chops, perhaps the best lamb chop dish I’ve had since my last visit to Roz Ana in Norbiton (and if you’re ever in the Kingston area, I’d seek them out if I were you). Trust me. That’s high praise for a lamb chop.
Dum Aloo Gobi – potato, cauliflower, green chillies, ginger – was a welcome hint of crunch (plus, you know, it was vegetables, so I can look my mum in the eye and tell her I’m eating properly), but somewhat overlooked by the true stars of this show: the aforementioned Raan, Awadhi Goat Biryani and (inevitably) Moong Dal Makhani. The latter was creamy, the biryani perfumed, tender and rich, and the Raan… Let’s just say I’ve found myself fantasising about a day I can go, sit in the corner, just me, some lamb leg and a spoon AND NOT HAVE TO SHARE, before mopping up every last bit of sauce with, I’m told, some of the best Kulcha to be found in London. Look. You have your fantasies. I have mine. Let’s not judge each other, alright?
The simple menu features one dessert, the Aminabad Kulfi. This is not the “mini milk” variant you get in too many places. This is the properly made, laborious kulfi of Indian homes and is, almost inevitably, glorious; cooling, rich, fragrant and melting to thick swirls of almond.
London is not short of seriously good mid-range Indian restaurants at the moment but, frankly, we just got another one for that list. And yes, nerdily, that’s an actual list too…
49 Maddox Street, London W1S 2PQ
Tel: 020 7491 9191