What were we saying about train travel in India? Something about easy, simple and not crowded? Agra to Lucknow was different. We booked ourselves in a sleeper carriage again for the 7hr20min journey East. Usually, on the platform there are signs in place for where each coach was. Not here though. When the train arrived two hours late we jumped on and wandered through the carriages, asking which coach we were on. We got pushed further and further down the train until we were told to sit. The seats were full but some room was made for our backpacks and we squished in. We were meant to have 6 stops but as train ventured further, more stops were added to the journey and in between we would be held in the middle of rice paddies for 45 minutes. Yet more people would get on the train and choose where we were sitting. The record was 16 people in six seats! With all these delays, we pulled into one of the scheduled stops one hour and twenty minutes early? The next stop was Lucknow, but we still arrived one and a half hours late.
The hotel was meant to be ten minutes away but it felt a lot further with the humid evening heat, the dark road filled with auto rickshaws travelling the wrong way next to – lets just say – not the nicest part of town. We arrived at the Golden Tulip drenched in sweat but relieved to see the windows of reception fogged up from some high quality A/C. This was good at the time, but the following morning, Mr Larko woke with the second worst illness you can get in India – Man Flu! The first, of course, is the illness when you go to the toilet – when you are nowhere near a toilet.
With a man down, it’s safe to say not much went on in Lucknow but we succeeded in doing the two things we wanted to do when we arrived there. Eat Kebabs and cook Kebabs. Lucknow is usually referred to with the Lucknow Siege or the birth of Cliff Richard (maybe not that one) but it was the Nawab’s that put it on the map with their refined palates. Biriyani, and Korma are some highlights, but a certain Nawab with no teeth was the reason behind the silky smooth texture of the kebabs You see, ol’ gummy couldn’t chew.Therefore, for lunch on the first day, we left and ate some kebabs from Tunday Kebabi. The oldest restaurant specialising in the craft and a rarity, as in the Aminibad restaurant you can actually get the beef version, which was actually our favourite. After some rest we worked up the energy to leave the hotel for dinner (kebabs) and headed to Sakhawat, a restaurant in a small alleyway near the Gymkhana Club to try their versions. Full with meat bellies we headed back home.
The following day I was feeling worse, so decided to skip lunch as we had managed to find a cooking school in Lucknow through Tornos Tours who have the Coquina restaurant where, the extremely knowledgeable, Cyrus shows you how to prepare the traditional Nawabi Cuisine. We were there too close to Eid festival so we were, unfortunately, unable to combine the food walk through the city that has rave reviews. We were introduced to the new flavour of Chaat Masala that goes amazingly well with the grilled aubergine seasoned with turmeric and chilli powder. We were shown the key to the perfect Biriyani and the delicious chicken Korma we had heard so much about. The problem by now was I feeling so rough, I couldn’t eat. Instead I sat and and watch Sarah devour her meal in front of me, smiling… Sad times. I couldn’t even finish my beer!
Thankfully we now have all the recipes, so when eventually we are in a home we can cook it again. We even specifically went out shopping and are now carrying Chaat Masala in our backpacks for the occasion when the stars align and we are gifted some eggplants and a BBQ to grill them on…