Editor's note: in August 2020 it was announced by the owner that Lucknow 49 would not reopen after the government-enforced pandemic lockdown from March 21st - July 4th.
Lucknow 49 opened in April 2019 and is a younger sister to Dum in Soho, which is under the same ownership. The restaurant name references the city of Lucknow in northern India, south-east of Delhi and the capital of Uttar Pradesh. This area’s cuisine is known as Awahdi, which amongst other things features dishes cooked over a slow fire, known as “dum” cooking.
The dining room has limited space and they have certainly packed in an impressive number of tables. The menu was a la carte but quite short by Indian restaurant standards. There were some curious choices, such as the two biryani options being either goat or vegetarian. Nothing wrong with either, but I was a little surprised not see lamb or even chicken as a choice at least. The list of vegetable sides dishes was also quite short, though they showed flexibility by offering to do a half portion of dum bhindi, normally a main course, as a side dish. Similarly they happily knocked up a lassi, which was not on the menu, without any fuss. There was also a cheaper set menu for £25 available before 7 p.m.
There was a short wine list with just fifteen bottles in all, five of them sparkling. These ranged in price from £29 to £120, with a median price of £44 and an average mark-up to retail price of a fraction under three times, which is not too bad for central London. Sample labels were Morande Pionero Sauvignon Blanc Reserva2018 at £32 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £8, a (misspelled) Domaine Jean Marc Brocard Chablis 2018 at £49 compared to its retail price of £18, and Drappier Brut Nature Zero Dosage at £85 for a wine that will set you back £38 in a shop. Only two beers were offered: an ale called Badmateez and a beer called Kernel Table that is brewed in Bermondsey, which tastes like more like a pale ale than a lager. This is fine to have as an option, but it seemed odd not to offer a conventional lager at all. They kindly made me some lassi as I didn’t take to this particular beer.
Saffron chicken tikka had tender thigh meat that had been marinated with cream and a little saffron before being cooked in the tandoor. This was quite tender, the gentle spices suffusing the meat nicely (13/20). Aloo tikki channa chaat featured patties of potato supposedly flavoured with green chillies though the latter seemed missing in action, as the patties were very bland. They came with a pleasant base of black chickpeas with apricot and grape chutney, which provided some much needed moisture, as the patties were a little dry (11/20).
Vegetable biryani had a mix of peas, green beans and carrots steamed with a stock involving lotus leaf and saffron. The top of the rice was reasonably fluffy in texture, but at the base of the biryani was an unappealing pool of ghee, and the vegetables themselves were verging on the soggy side (11/20). A side dish of dum bhindi, the okra cooked with brown onion and yoghurt, turned out to be the star dish of the meal. Okra turns to a slimy texture if you as much as look at it sternly, and in most Indian kitchens in London it arrives as a soggy mess. Here it still had some firmness and had very good flavour, going nicely with the onions (easily 14/20).
Moong dhal makhani had moong lentils that were slow-cooked in milk for six hours. This was pleasant enough, though for me the texture was a little soggy (12/20). The only bread available was kulcha, a mildly leavened flat bread rolled out flat and cooked in a tandoor. This was actually very good, so much so that I ordered another one. This had excellent texture (14/20). Given that they have a tandoor I was puzzled why they did not at least offer an alternative bread such as naan, but at least the kulcha itself was high quality.
Purple carrot halwa was notionally prepared with milk, cardamom and nuts arrived looking worrying dry. This impression was when it was cut open. It crumbled into lumps when cut and was just not very nice at all, vaguely carrot flavoured but with an unpleasant texture (8/20). To be fair, they took it off the bill.
Service was very good, the waiters attentive and helpful, and the bill came to £50 a head with a couple of glasses of champagne. If you shared a modest bottle of wine and had three courses then a typical cost per person might come to around £55. This was a rather frustrating meal, as the bhindi and the bread showed that there was some ability in the kitchen. However the other dishes were not to this standard, and the halwa in particular was just bad.