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Heritage Mansion in Lucknow
The hotel driver, the escort and their refurbished old Ambassador car met us to take us to the Heritage Mansion in Lucknow, now converted into Lebua Lucknow Luxury Boutique Heritage hotel.
As we make our way to the hotel, a lot of heads turned. That gave us a thrill which a celebrity feels on having been recognized in a strange place. However soon we realized it was not us (sigh!) but our distinctive yellow car that was causing so many turns of heads. It was always the same, a look at the car and a glance at us to see who in the world are travelling in this. Anyway we felt quite distinguished.
After negotiating a few lanes, which gives us the indication that we are perhaps in the central part Lucknow, we enter The Mall Road and into a huge wrought iron gates which gives us the first hint as to the age of the building ahead.
This 2-storyed art-deco building was originally named Saraca Estate, due to the abundance of Saraca Indica, commonly called the Ashoka trees, in its 1.5 acre plot. These trees are supposed to be more than 100 years old! The mansion was built in the year 1936 by an officer of the British-Indian Army. The original owners were already running a sort of a boarding house when this property was acquired by a Lucknow born Abdullah and his wife Nayab, recently.
The couple transformed this weather beaten bungalow into a luxury heritage hotel with a perfect blend of the modern comforts with the original opulence and partnered with Lebua group of Thailand to bring to us this unique experience called Lebua Lucknow, Saraca Estate. The words of Mr Faisal, General Manager, India, that Lebua is a combination of the French word Le meaning “The” and Thai word Bua meaning “Lotus”, resonates in our minds while we check into our suite on the first floor.
While it took 2 minutes for us to reach the room duly escorted, it took 5 on the way back as we got lost in the maze of staircases. Was the architect inspired by Bhul-Bhulaiyan (Labyrinth) , a well known tourist spot on top of Bara Imambara, I wonder. Hahaha!
There are 41 rooms and suites and no two of them have the same dimensions. However the underlying theme of the décor is always the same, reminding us of this land of Chikan and Zardozi.
We were guided by smartly liveried staff to the first floor suite, facing the front lawn. It was not a suite as per the classic sense of the word in that, it was a huge hall divided into useful spaces by intelligent placement of furniture. Of course there was a huge private balcony overlooking the lush green lawns.
The old fashioned bedstead on which a modern high quality mattress to address the comfort shows how the old and the modern have been seamlessly mixed. The green cushions providing the contrast in the other white bed seems to match the emerald of the lawn outside.
The colored glass panes gave it a look of the yester years. I remember some of the very old houses belong to our relatives had them. In fact similar panes were mounted on a wooden bracket to hide the incongruous air conditioner!
While high quality amenities are provided in the room, what caught our eye was the electric tea kettle made of ceramic. That was new to us and somehow accentuated the character of the room.
The bathroom was quite roomy with her and him wash basins, which alongwith high quality bath products meant that we could look forward to refreshing bath or shower after or forays into the city of Nawabs.
We were lucky to move into the biggest suite after a couple of days. Access to the room was from a large covered sit-out with comfortable chairs and old fashioned recliner too. The room was well furnished and so was the bathroom. The handles of doors and wardrobes were made of Chikankari wooden blocks.
About dining experiences at Lebua Lucknow, the words won’t do any justice. I wish our tongues could speak!
Azrak, the signature restaurant, served traditional cuisine from the erstwhile princely states (including Awadhi) and served exotically named dishes fit for the royalty. Meal after meal the likes of Papad Mangodi ki Subzi, Diwani Handi, Paneer Khatta Pyaz and a variety of rice, dal and rotis kept us licking our fingers and drooling for more! In Urdu Azrak means blue, perhaps named so because of the blue floor tiles!
At Azrak Chinese or more correctly Pan Asian cuisine is also served. We particularly relished the Crispy Veg Mongolian style. In Urdu Azrak means blue, perhaps named so because of the blue floor tiles!
Ristorante 1936 belts out authentic Italian dishes and is quite popular with the guests and also with Lucknow people. Named after the year of construction of this estate, this ristorante provides indoor and outdoor seating (just like in Europe!). When we had our multi-course dinner one night we found that from Antipasti and Zuppa to Portata Principale , transported us to Italy and reminded us of our time there. We ended our dinner with Chocolate Fondant for Dolce. What an indulgence!
Sehen, with old brick floor, is a dining area, open to sky, in the courtyard surrounded by some greenery and overlooked by the many terraces. It is quite the center of attraction literally. The theme of the night’s dinner was Awadhi. Some exquisite creations from the Chef with offerings like Kuti mirch ke paneer tikka, Mawa mewe ki seekh, mushroom ki galawat (true to its name just melted in the mouth) and a glass of red wine kept us warm in the chilly night. We are sure the non veg selections Galawati Kabab, Murg Tikka mirza hasnoo , would have been equally delicious.
The well rounded gastronomic experience ended with a dinner at khema, meaning tent in Arabic and tent it was. The highlight of the evening was live music by the very talented Shivam Mishra (whom we later saw in Rising Star 2 TV programme too) to the accompaniment of western and Indian fusion cuisine. Moongdal ki Aranchini with salsa for starter and Ravioli of Paneer capsicum bhujia in makhani sauce for main course were just out of this world.
Lebua Lucknow has indeed raised the bar as a veritable culinary must-stop in this city of Nawabs.
Lebua Lucknow is in the process of establishing a terrace dining space too. That would be awesome!
Lebua has in its folds a team of experienced tour operators and guides who know the city and its history very well. It was a great pleasure and beautiful experience when we saw the regular historical sights like Bada Imambara, Chhota Imambara and walk through the Rumi Darwaza, exploring the grounds of La Martiniere and hope to bump into the Ghost of La martiniere and so on.
The tours could be customized based on interests. We also tasted some awesome street food.
While our stay inside the room was made comfortable by the decor and furniture, there were enough spaces outide the room to spend quality time, other than dining too!
There was a small but reasonably well equipped Gym that helped us shed those extra kilograms assimilated while enjoying the cuisine in the hotel and in Lucknow! There is a swimming pool too but the weather was too cold for a dip. However just sitting by the poolside with a cocktail was refreshing enough.
Baradari is a large banquet hall next to the pool and is apt for meetings and training or even small parties. For larger parties, the lawns provide right ambience.
Lebua Lucknow, the luxury boutique heritage hotel, is located bang in the central part of Lucknow and is next to the sprawling bungalow belonging to Mayawati. It is close to many historic places and also the Gomti River. Many old buildings can be seen to be along the river.
The airport is just 14KM away but may take upto 30 minutes drive owing to traffic delays.
You may also want to read other accommodation reviews.
Disclaimer: We stayed at Hotel Lebua, Lucknow at their invitation but the opinions, as always, are own.
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