I have wanted to visit Lucknow since two long years. It’s a city in north-India, famous for its kebabs. That one word is enough for me to want to go – kebabs.
“You want to go to Lucknow just to eat kebabs?” my dad once asked amused.
“Yes, I want to go there just to eat!”
Word kind of spread in the family and an uncle who lives in New Delhi ensured that he ordered ‘galoti kebabs’ from a local place that he loved.
“Try these, you won’t have to go to Lucknow”
While I tried them, he told us the story of how the Galoti kebabs came to be. They are kebabs that melt in your mouth, minced mutton with no chewing involved.
Apparently one of the last nawabs of the city was extremely fond of meat and as he grew old, his teeth fell, and eating the likes of mutton became a challenge. So he ordered his chef to make him a dish that wouldn’t need chewing and still be mouth-watering. And that’s how the chef came up with Galoti kebabs.
I had the Delhi version, they were delicious no doubt. But the craving to try the famous Lucknow kebabs remained.
So finally, this month, a friend and I decided to do a one day trip.
For two years I postponed the trip because I wasn’t finding time to squeeze in two days to do the trip. Everybody I talked to said that the city needs at least two days time. Also, we were warned of metro construction and traffic snarls that would slow us down.
But after finally sitting down and carefully analysing everything there was to do and see in the city on google maps, I came to the conclusion that everything could be done in one day. You need two days in Lucknow only if you want to shop. I didn’t want to shop. So here goes one day in the city of kebabs –
Sharma ji ki chai in Hazratganj
We were supposed to reach Lucknow by 8 am in the morning, but our bus was delayed by 3 hours and we reached at 11 am.
We headed straight to our hotel in Hazratganj. We booked one in this area because all the popular eating spots are walking distance from here. And it’s pretty much the heart of the city, getting public transport would be easy.
We tried the tea, bun maska and samosas at Sharma ji ki chai. The samosas were heavenly. The tea was average. Dipping bun maska in the mediocre tea however made it nicer. Our breakfast cost us Rs 90, that is less than one dollar per person. So we were mighty satisfied.
Bara Imambara + Bhool Bhoolaiya + Rumi Darwaza
We just had to walk a little from Sharma ji ki chai and we found a share tempo that took Rs 15 per person and dropped you at Bara Imambara, a mosque.
Now this place has a bunch of stuff to see. First, one crosses the gorgeous Rumi Darwaza, an ancient gate, to get to the premises of Bara Imambara.
The ticket cost included looking at a 18th century step-well, then going inside the famous ‘bhool-bhoolaiya’, i.e the labyrinth. The cost of a guide was Rs 100 for two people. It wasn’t too much, so we paid for a guide, who took us through the labyrinth and explained to us its historical importance. What was very interesting was that the whole place was made with a lot of edible materials. I won’t put too many details here because that’s for you to explore when you actually visit.
Picture Gallery + Clock Tower
Once we were done with looking at everything in and around Bara Imambara, we stepped out and a guy who owned an electric rikshaw offered to show us a bunch of places for just Rs 40 in total.
We thought ‘what the heck’ and agreed.
He took us to Picture Gallery, a very small museum that had painting of all the nawabs who once ruled Lucknow.
Right outside the Picture Gallery was a clock tower, which was not working by the way, but looked great, so we took some pictures.
“It stopped working yesterday” the driver explained when we asked him why it was not working.
“Don’t take guides for looking at the Picture Gallery, you won’t need it” he threw in some free advice too.
So we didn’t take a guide and man, we so didn’t need one. The picture gallery is very small and like I said, just had painting of middle aged fat nawabs in jewel studded garments.
Some of them were those 3d kind of painting, like no matter where you were in the room, the eyes looked like they are looking at you. The place was like a 10 minute stop.
Some cloth shops
I know I said I have no interest in shopping, but the driver insisted that he would show us one or two shops and that we could step out immediately if we didn’t like it. The thing is, in touristy cities, drivers usually get a cut from such shops, if they get in a potential customer who buys some stuff from them.
My friend and I knew that, but we thought we could take a peek anyway. I don’t remember the names of the shops. We spent 20 minutes in total in shopping. I will just move on to the next stop.
This was a congregation hall made for Shia Mulims and is a delicate looking white monument not too far away from the Bara Imambara.
We were given scarves at the entrance to cover our heads as is the tradition when you enter such religious monuments. The building is extremely pretty and inside there is not much, it looks like a museum of fancy lamps. Apparently it used to be referred to as the palace of lights.
Its premises also had a Hammam (Turkish bath), which might have been an interesting place for men to hang out when the place was built. But right now, it’s just a depressing little complex with empty bath tubs.
It was almost 3.30 pm, but funnily, we weren’t hungry, despite not having had any lunch. We decided to head to a place called Residency, which was suggested to us by a friend. He told us that outside one could get some delicious local snacks.
We took an uber from Chhota Imambara and it cost us Rs 70 I think.
Unfortunately for us, nobody was selling anything interesting to eat, so we just headed inside The Residency. It houses ruins of what once were homes of British officers, destroyed during the 1857 rebellion by Indian freedom fighters.
Since the weather was great, the premises served as a soothing place to walk around and take pictures. It closes by 5 pm and also has a little museum that details the historic significance of the site.
This was the only place where we would have liked to spend a little more time, but we didn’t have the time. Although we saw all of it, including the museum.
Royal Cafe, Hazrat Ganj
This place was highly recommended by some people for chaats.
Here is an important tip – just order one dish first. Their quantity is crazy!
We ordered two items, a basket chat and a spinach chat. We couldn’t finish it. Although they were crispy and nice, but a little too salty. I have had better in Varanasi (Benaras).
We went to our hotel to take rest for like an hour and then headed to Sikander Bagh. And boy were we glad that this we saved for last. It was just a small park kind of a place with an ancient ornate gate. There were absolutely no visitors and for good reason. This place can be skipped.
Marine Drive + Gomti River Front
We were planning on going to the river front after dinner, but we weren’t hungry as such, I think it was just 7.30 pm by the time were done with almost everything, so we decided to go to the river front before dinner. I tried taking an Uber Moto for the first time. Because the cab rate was Rs 90 and getting a two wheeler ride was only Rs 15, so my friend and I booked an uber moto each and headed to the river front. It was fun riding through the roads of Lucknow on a pleasant evening.
The Gomti river front was a nice park overlooking the river. We tried ‘Tandoori Chai’, which is made in a very interesting way but the end result, the tea, was a disappointment. I couldn’t finish my share.
“The tandoori flavour goes well only with meat” I observed.
At the river front park, there was a crowd gathered around a bunch of kids who were jamming to popular bollywood songs. We sat there for a while and heard them sing and then walked around a bit. The guys singing and playing the guitar were actually damn good. Some girls even went up and took a selfie with the boy who had been singing.
“Is he a local celebrity or what?” my friend wondered. We had no idea. But it was a nice wrap to the evening. Listening to local kids sing their heart out just for fun.
Tunday Kebabi, Aminabad
We saved the kebabs for the last. We took an uber cab for Rs 90. We had to walk to the Tunday Kebabi restaurants after being dropped at the main market because the streets were too narrow and crowded for a cab to reach there.
Luckily, the restaurant wasn’t as packed as we were thinking it would be.
We first ordered mutton galoti kebabs and then ordered chicken seekh kebabs.
I have been to so many recommended hotels in my life and 90% have always turned out to be over-rated.
But damn, the succulent galoti kebabs just melted in our mouths and I exclaimed “dude, our Lucknow trip is a success”.
We did a high five. Yes, childish.
We ordered another round of Galoti kebabs and packed mutton biryani for later.
Talk about saving the best for the last. The Galoti kebabs were more than worth the money we spent on it! (The Biryani was very average by the way)
We then had kulfi from a famous place close by.
And that’s how we wrapped our Lucknow trip.
Well, we actually had a 11 am flight the next day, so we had Sharma ji ki chai and samosey again.
And we took the metro to the Lucknow airport. The metro station was walking distance from our hotel in Hazratganj.
Few more pictures on my instagram handle – @Scarredfoot