For those who have travelled extensively in the North of India, you will have realised that there are a number of exotic magical lands. Cities where you see the regal combined with the ancient; places where time actually stands still. What sets places like Ayodhya, Lucknow, Allahabad, and the neighbouring districts apart from the rest of the country is the fact that this old India may have become modern over time, but the one thing that has remained true to its heritage is the cuisine. These districts (and a few others) make up an ancient Mughal land known as Awadh, and while it is now known as present-day Uttar Pradesh, from deep in the heart of Lucknow comes a culinary experience the likes of which Goa has never seen before – and it’s called The Awadh House.
The true Mughal experience
In a world of minimal design, simplistic art forms, and ‘less is more’, The Awadh House is unapologetically over the top – in a good way. Walking into the newly opened Awadh House on Dr Dada Vaidya Road in Panjim is a trip into another era. One where elephants and horses were a means of transport and Nawabs ruled the land. The dim lighting throughout this old three-storey construction is inviting, and so is the living room on the ground floor. With high backed armchairs and antique furniture, the living room serves as a holding area while you wait to be seated.
As you make your way up the stairs to the first floor, you will notice that the walls are adorned with history. Tattered scrolls depicting maps of the old Indian regions of Avadh, Oudh, Hyderabad and more, ancient stamps, banknotes, and a variety of Mughal art. Every landing is decked in antique furniture, inviting you to take a break – or take a few pictures. From the floors to the cutlery, everything feels like royalty – and you are the guest of honour. The first floor enjoys a lively atmosphere thanks to the bar ‘Shauk’, while the second floor is segregated into multiple mini spaces seating anywhere between 8 to 12 people per space. These spaces are all separated by doors with the intention to offer privacy for meetings or family gatherings. Once seated at a table at The Awadh House, you soon realise the true meaning of ‘service’.
The cuisine of kings
The opulent leatherette seating at the dining table envelops you. As you sink in, it will take you a moment to soak in the sheer luxury in front of you. Beautiful turquoise dinnerware on top of gold platters, flanked by gold plated cutlery is merely a foretelling of the affluence that is to come. The menu, once presented by a doting server, invites you to continue your journey into the past. Nothing on the menu is there by chance. Every dish has been carefully selected and is prepared with the choicest ingredients by chefs who have spent years learning the true art of Lucknowi, Awadhi cuisine. In Goa, there is no frame of reference, making The Awadh House a true pioneer in this forgotten culinary culture.
The highlights of the menu include the famous Galouti Kebab, a delicate and irresistible melt-in-the-mouth kebab of finely minced lamb. These kebabs were ‘invented’ for an ageing Nawab who lost his teeth. Cooked with over 150 spices, the Galouti Kebab is the pride of Lucknow. Other appetizers include the Tangdi Kulfi, a chicken drumstick coated with a rich cream sauce, and seasoned with spices before being wrapped in a plantain leaf and finished in a tandoor, and the Awadhi Barrah Chops, tender lamb chops marinated in a spicy mix of yoghurt, and flavoured with roasted cumin.
The main course offers non-vegetarian dishes that may seem familiar such as the popular Rogan Josh, however, there are other treasures such as the Nizami Raan which is a whole leg of spring lamb cooked in a delectable onion and yoghurt gravy, spiced with garam masala, and the sensational Paneer Najakat. The latter is a type of paneer never experienced in Goa. The fresh cottage cheese is stuffed and cooked in a rich gravy of tomatoes and brown onions. But if you really must choose just one main course, the true star of the menu is, surprisingly, the Dal Awadh. Most ordinary restaurants would not pride themselves on their dal (lentils), but we’ve already established that The Awadh House, is no ordinary restaurant. This incredible dish is a harmonious blend of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic, simmered overnight on a slow charcoal fire. The result is the finest lentil preparation you have ever experienced.
Finally, the showstopper in this tale of uncompromising royalty is the main reason why most patrons will return over and over again – the true Lucknowi Biryani. Unlike a Hyderabadi Biryani, the Lucknowi Biryani is the polar opposite. Where the Hyderabadi is heavy, the Lucknowi is light. Where the Hyderabadi is spicy, the Lucknowi is mild. This indulgent dish looks simple, but the flavours are absolutely hypnotic. And for the lack of colour, it really makes you wonder how this simple Basmati rice cooked with lamb or chicken, manages to pull so much character from the saffron and kewra water. There is definitely more to this story which sadly cannot be put into words.
A rich ending to a wonderful journey
Rounding off your experience at The Awadh House is some truly unique desserts. The Gulab Halwa as the name suggests is a marriage of rose and sweet. The rose petals are cooked in a sinful combination of dried fruits and khoya, creating a rich ending to this magical journey. If you’re feeling adventurous though, the Paan Barfi is a rather unique creation. All the makings of a typical sweet paan are wrapped up in a rich cashew barfi, and shaped like a leaf. The strong Gulkandh flavour is complemented by the sweet marzipan of the cashew, creating an explosion of flavour in the mouth.
For true connoisseurs of food, The Awadh House is an unforgettable experience curated through a world-class exhibit of skilful cooking and thoughtful presentation coupled with gracious hospitality in a setting that will leave one awestruck. Everything you see, hear, taste and experience has been meticulously curated to recreate the royalty of a bygone era, where the guest is God. Visit The Awadh House expecting the true Avadhi experience, and you will not be disappointed. To make a reservation at The Awadh House, contact 9307507688. You can also follow the restaurant on Instagram @theawadhhouse, or on Facebook @theawadhhousegoa.
Have you taken this journey into the past? We’d love to hear about your Mughal experience in the comments below.
Video Credits Produced by: Filmplane Studios by Dreamsketchers & The Awadh House Executive Producer: Anish Divekar Directed and edited by Krishna Devate Concept & Creative director : Prayag Quenim Cinematography and colourist: Anish Nyk Gaunker Animation: Tanmoy Nath Cast: Dhruv Sincró