LUCKNOW 49, MAYFAIR
BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT FOR: Inspired dishes and a homely vibe
DISH TO ORDER: Lentil-stuffed flatbread with homemade chutney
A few footsteps from the hordes of Regent Street but with an under-the-radar charm, Lucknow 49 is the kind of joint you’ll return to whenever you fancy a night catching up with friends over conversation-starting food while sitting on comfy but cool mismatched pillows. Everything about Lucknow is homely: the sweet but subtle service, the framed family-like photos, the contrasting wallpapers and bright garlands streaming from the ceiling. Although it’s a small space, there are enough little alcoves and seating options to accommodate many relaxed, private conversations. Music is a mix of chilled soul and Urdu pop, though the soundtrack definitely takes second place to the happy hubbub of the diners (every table was full on the Thursday night we visited).
Then the food itself, courtesy of Dhruv Mittal, the man behind Soho’s Dum Biryani, is write-home-worthy. The quail dahl and lamb main, for example, is served in a sauce so good and so ‘just the right sort of spicy’ you’ll still be scraping the bowl long after the bird is all gone. And that’s after you’ve licked the tin dish containing the lentil-stuffed flatbread appetiser, accompanied by rice dumplings, lashings of yoghurt, tamarind and house-speciality coriander chutney. The Aminabad kulfi, or homemade Indian ice cream, scooped into a little ceramic plant pot, has a heavy hit of cardamom but is refreshingly light. Indeed, Lucknow’s dishes leave you feeling less full than at many other Indian restaurants (tip: order naans, no rice). Yet even despite that, we saw several people leaving with Tupperware containers tucked under their arms, just as though they’d been eating at a friend’s home. By Becky Lucas