From Chhedilal to Chanakya ki Kulfi, we went to the most iconic places in Lucknow’s Hazratganj and here’s what we found-
Lucknow is a foodie's paradise. When it comes to food, the kind of dishes that are served in the streets of Lucknow is hard to find in the streets of other cities. If Lucknow is an amusement park for a food lover, Hazratganj will have to be the biggest giant wheel in it!
The heart of the city, Hazratganj has a ton of treasures hidden inside its own heart. The place is an icon in itself and if you truly want to try the authentic taste of Lucknow, there's no better place.
Hazratganj has some of the most iconic places in the city, a hub of great restaurants and outlets. The place is fascinating enough to pique any epicure's interest. Yet, what is behind the names of these "iconic places"? Has time flushed out all the character they had or will you find what you've been looking for?
In a quest to review all the iconic outlets in the Hazratganj area, we stumbled upon a few gems and here's what we think:
Then: Chhedilal is a legendary outlet. We remember hitting the place with our family once the summers were in full swing and we needed something to "cool down". Chhedilal's shakes have always been a major part of any family's Hazratganj shopping spree and to this day people flock the place in search of a delightful beverage.
Now: Chhedilal's shakes are still as delicious as ever. If you compare Chhedilal to any other shakes chain or outlet in the city, you'll find that not only is Chhedilal more economical, they have an overall better taste since they use real ingredients. The iconic cold-coffee is a tiny bit washed down but the mango shake is still the king of everything. If you're looking for a good mango shake this is the place you need to dash to.
Then: Every kid in Lucknow could testify to the fact that if you wanted a good pav-bhaji, Bombay Pav Bhaji in Hazratganj is where you went. Located near Cathedral convent, this outlet exemplified everything a good pav bhaji stood for. The bhaji, a thick ooey-gooey mix, always full of delicate flavours and the pav toasted with a heaping spoonful of butter. What stood out about the outlet was the aroma of their signature spice mix, which would spread its fragrance to the entire street.
Now: Bombay Pav Bhaji still makes amazing bhaji and if you ask them, they'll make yours will double maska and extra masala. If their bhaji has changed taste, it is only for the better; you would no longer find yours swimming in oil or so fiery that it leaves the tongue burning. So if you're looking for a good pav bhaji, you can depend on Bombay.
Then: Known all over Lucknow as the ultimate "chai-wala" where chai is still prepared over traditional tandoors, this place is an epitome of our favourite beverage. Located at an oft-visited street in Lalbagh, this tea-joint is a 2 minute rickshaw ride away from the Atal Chowk (former, Hazratganj Chauraha). While the world may know of Sharma ki chai and their "gol" samose now, we grew up on the tea. We heard tales of the tea and we know its taste by heart.
Now: Though Sharma still remains a landmark, people swarm the verandah of the outlet and the tea is still quite good, the iconic creaminess and the royal flavour was missing. The tea is still prepared in the iconic almost "English tea" like preparation, where the milk is simmered in a different pot and the tea brewed separately. What the tea lacked could be attributed to the quality of milk or the tea leaves they're using.
While, the small cup of tea which is good, feels a bit overpriced at ₹15.
Then: Known all over the city for the wonderful South Indian and Chinese food they served, Marksmen has been an icon for Hazratganj for long. Their dosas were the best in the city and the freshly fried vadas would entice even the most fussy eaters, while the Chinese they served was considered some of the best in the entire region. Who can say that they went to Hazratganj and weren't enraptured by the strong aroma of all the foods served here!
Now: While their South Indian food still remains quite a delight, the Chinese they serve here can be classified as average at best. The crunchy dosa and its light filling will make you forget all about the place's dilapidated condition, while the vada (if you're lucky enough to get a fresh fried one) will definitely put a smile on your face.
Then: The iconic blue-hole-in-the-wall outlet opposite New Shukla Chai house has been a staple for Lucknow's pani-batasha hoggers. The outlet is famed as one of the city's best and the entire city flocks here to find what is claimed to be "amazing chat and pani ke batashe". Yet, what will you be greeted with once you reach here?
Now: The place is still swarmed by gol-gappa, pani ke batashe lovers and we have to say the chat is good, the batashe and the pani quite nice. Yet, the outlet still doesn't live up to its hype and if you're looking for "the best batashe" it would be better to seek them elsewhere in the city!
Then: Known to people by several names be it Kevad or Keval, this traditional chai place was opened around 35 years back by the tea chef from Sharma. The fact that the guy who makes tea here was the man behind the exemplary taste at Sharma made him immensely popular. Even if it meant standing at a dim-lit back alley in Hazratganj and sipping "chai", people still did it. He also served the iconic "gol samose" and the bun maska.
Now: Hands down the best tea you'll have in Lucknow! The guy who makes tea here knows his craft. He still makes it in the popular Sharma style- just a whole lot better. He adds the sugar in cups, pours some bubbling hot thick milk in it and tops the entire affair with a pour of black tea that is kept sizzling in a classic kettle. You will find him as you take the first right from the distinct yellow coloured 'Faridi Brothers Building' while entering the Naaza market.
Then: Famous for its scrumptious authentic Chinese spread, Jone Hing is a name we're all familiar with. This legendary outlet in Hazratganj is hard to miss and if you're a fan of Chinese cuisine or a local, looking to rediscover the famous names in Lucknow, you've surely given the place a visit. Famed for their Chilli Chicken, Mutton Chilli, Noodle, Chowmein, Peking Soup, Chilli Garlic Noodles, not many Chinese eateries in the city could actually match up to their culinary expertise.
Now: Although the city is swarming with Chinese restros these days, Jone Hing has significantly risen above the ranks of a regular restro and maintained its old-world charms. It still serves drool-worthy vivers and the quantity of the grubs are better than most of the other places, serving the same. This place is worth every penny and the food can never disappoint. We honestly think, that the restaurant which can actually compete with Jone Hing's repute, is Chung Fa located at Mahanagar.
Then: The smell of roasted kaleji and grilled chicken is what dominated this outlet which has for long been the abode of non-vegetarian lovers. The kaleji roasted to perfection, bouncy and covered in a thick spicy gravy exuding a fragrance predominantly of coriander, and the soft parathas complementing the dish simply too well. People were also a great fan of the authentic Awadhi biryani served here, while the chicken roast made even the most ardent of epicures drool.
Now: To this day, Open Air Restaurant remains the flag bearer of Awadhi cuisine in Lucknow. The place is sans proper seating, without proper fans or ACs and is still flocked by non-vegetarians from around the city. The smell of rich spices, a biryani made perfectly and grilled chicken so moist and tender, it will make your mouth water. Head here for a perfect Awadhi meal- be it the biryani which is light, fluffy and not oily at all, or a perfectly roasted chicken and even a chicken masala with a blend of spices so rich, it is still a hit after all these years.
Then: Chanakya has been known to serve one of the best kulfis in town. The thick creamy kulfi has been the talk of the town with abundance of dry fruits, a ton of saffron and no falooda to water down the classic taste. Chanakya is famed as one of the best kulfi places in the city; the bold flavours and the simple kulfi making a home into the hearts of many.
Now: Unlike other kulfi places in town, Chanakya retains its iconic taste, the thick blend and the satisfactory creaminess which has been there since the very beginning. You can still get the same taste from Chanakya without much muss and fuss. They also serve pretty great mattha which is available from 5:30 in the morning as well as a delectable milk pudding.
We know that everyone has a different taste and when it comes to food, every opinion is subjective. This is our take on the food you find in and around the streets of Lucknow and we've tried to remain as candid as possible.
The hopeless romantic in our heads cannot but hope that our favourite outlets and these legends find their old charm somewhere so that we can enjoy our favourite dishes once more.