On 4 March, the team behind Dum Biryani will open the doors to Lucknow Social, a neighbourhood Indian restaurant specialising in Lucknowi cuisine just a stone’s throw from London’s bustling Regent Street.
Founder Dhruv Mittal will take inspiration from the low and slow Awadhi cooking of the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, a North Indian style that sees fluffy biryanis, galauti kebabs and curries at the centre of the table.
Mittal has travelled extensively throughout India, honing his skills and knowledge of regional cuisine along the way. Lucknow Social will reflect his time spent working as a chef at the luxurious Oberoi hotel in Agra, in their trademark Awadhi restaurant, ‘Esphahan’, situated just east of Lucknow in the Uttar Pradesh region. Here he fell in love with the ‘dum’ method of cooking over a low flame, synonymous with the area, and returned to London inspired to open a restaurant embracing this centuries old method.
At dinner, guests to the Maddox Street space can kick things off with a choice of kebabs, based on the dishes beloved of the Mughal emperors whose Persian roots inspired much of the Awadhi style. There’s a kakori kebab spiked with clove, black pepper, and cinnamon, and grilled over coals; and lamb galauti made with minced lamb and over 50 dry spices, hand-pounded into a soft paste and gently fried, originally invented for a toothless nawab - or viceroy - of the region.
Next, there’s a line-up of Dhruv’s fragrant biryanis, including an Awadhi chicken biryani flavoured with saffron, rose water, screw pine essence, and a perfume made with the roots of several flowers and seeds alongside a new ‘safed’, or white rish dish made with 16-hour simmered lamb stock also known as a yakhni pulao.
Lucknow Social’s curries are labour-intensive, simmered slowly over a low heat - there’s a rich lamb neck korma, with saffron and just a hint of spice; and taar gosht, meaning ‘sticky lamb’, a specialty of Lucknow’s royal kitchens which sees a spice-marinated lamb leg rendered down for several hours to create a thick sauce.
Regional parathas and kulchas are on hand to mop up curries, while fresh sides of pickled lacha onion and homemade coriander chutney to cut through the heat.
To finish, cold, simple desserts round off the menu, including a homemade matka kulfi with almonds and rosewater, and phirni, a sweet rice pudding.
At lunchtime, visitors can order quick bites including a multi-layered gilafi kulcha with a choice of chicken kakori or lamb galauti kebab, and a smaller version of the biryani to take away. To drink, Zeren Wilson has created a short wine list of bottles carefully selected to pair with Lucknowi cuisine, including a collection of champagnes, white and red wine, and the restaurant is teaming up with Hackney Brewery to launch their very own beer.
Mittal said, “Awadhi cooking is a slow process, with most dishes taking days to prepare - it’s a real labour of love. Spending time cooking in Agra and travelling around Lucknow, I was blown away by its multi-layered flavours and cooking techniques. I’m looking forward to bringing this style of cooking to Lucknow Social, and creating an escape where people can gather to socialise over a North Indian feast.”
To help realize his vision, Mittal teamed up with New York based design firm, and James Beard Foundation award winner, MP Shift, interiors celebrate the colours of India, the idiosyncrasies of Indian roadside cafe and the warmth of a Dhaba kitchen.
Lucknow Social will open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.