Lebua Lucknow, Saraca Estate, a boutique heritage hotel located in the heart of the city, offers patrons a taste of Lucknowi 'nawabiyat' at a pocket-friendly price. Though Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh, was deposed in 1856, he left behind a strong legacy.
Descendant of a long line of noblemen known for their opulent living, ostentatious hospitality and distinctively polite personages; he embodied the concept of 'nawabiyat' or royal splendour.
Hence, a visit to present-day Awadh or Lucknow as it is known evokes a heightened expectation of the tangible pleasures of life, namely ornate architecture, delectable food and courteous service. Lebua Lucknow, Saraca Estate, located in the heart of the city, aims to fulfil these expectations while promising modern-day comforts.
Currently operating as a 41-room boutique hotel, Saraca Estate was originally built in 1936 as a sprawling bungalow made in the Art Deco style of architecture, characteristic to the early 1900s. Its present owner refurbished and handed the property to the Thailand-based Lebua hospitality group to run in 2016.
The heritage charm of the property is certainly its most shining asset. Its flooring and furnishing, courtyards and terraces, vintage furniture, and artwork accurately recreate the look of sprawling kothis and havelis of yore.
One can choose from a range of rooms and suites - large ones with private patios and smaller ones carved out of larger rooms. Public areas include spacious lawns, Instagram-worthy fountains, courtyards, staircases, and a swimming pool.
The last of these is shut due to COVID-19, but also extremely neglected. Its picturesque locales attract a number of influencers, brides and grooms on wedding shoots, and young couples attempting to impress their dates.
Lebua Lucknow's culinary offerings include the Awadhi restaurant Azrak, 1936 Ristorante for Italian cuisine, and Saraca Rooftop Lounge which is currently closed. The Italian restaurant seats only for dinner and though its food passes muster, it does not match up to its Awadhi counterpart, helmed by Chef Mohsin Qureshi.
This first-class cook does not boast a fancy culinary degree, but his descent from a long line of Awadhi chefs trumps many of his peers. Weary travellers will be surprised at the quality and taste of the fare on offer - quite unexpected from an 'international chain hotel'.
But then, even locals endorse his creations. Chef Qureshi shares, "Maintaining the authenticity of the Awadhi cuisine is most important. Our popular dishes include the Dum Gosht Majlisi Kebab, Murgh Malai Pasanda, Ruhani Kofte, and a recipe of my grandmothers called Wajid Ali Shah ke Bagaare Baingan."
Additionally, one shouldn't miss the unique Barra Kebab. Before you begin salivating, however, a word of caution is in order. Neglect is apparent with a few public areas begging attention and repair. The inconvenient layout of rooms forces guests to bear with loud noises at night, and some members of the staff seem untrained.
Fortunately, others are more attentive to the needs of patrons. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. And if you are looking for a mid-level heritage getaway, Lebua Lucknow is a good bet.
Keep in mind
Where: Lebua Lucknow, Saraca Estate
How to Book: Lebua.com
Location: 10 km from both Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport and the Domestic Airport
Social Media: @lebualucknow
Local Attractions: Centrally located, close to Hazratganj, near many cultural sites, monuments, traditional eateries, shopping centres and the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoo