I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s a big one. I’ve lived in Leeds for nine very happy years, during which I’ve dedicated huge chunks of my spare time to exploring the foodie delights of the city and surrounding area. My ‘must-visit’ list may be ever-growing, but I’ve done my damnedest to tick off plenty of the region’s culinary hotspots. Yet in these eight years, I’ve never once tried that most celebrated of cuisines. The Bradford curry.
I know, I know. In case you don’t know why this is such a crime, let me put it into perspective. Curry is a big deal in Bradford. A very big deal. Renowned for its diverse multiculturalism, Bradford is a pulsating hub of art, culture and cuisine from around the world, with its highly-prized curries at the heart of this. The city has earned an esteemed reputation for the vast variety and quality of its curry offerings, and was in fact named the Curry Capital of Britain in 2011 and 2012. Most West Yorkshire folk seem to profess an opinion about which curry house is best, and it’s generally a given that you’ve tried a Bradford curry, and loved it.
I’ve clearly got a lot of making up to do.
An idle peruse through twitter t’other week led me to stumble upon a charming discovery – the possibility of losing my Bradford curry virginity in STYLE.
I wonder what the footfall will be this weekend at Bradford World Curry Fest Love the freedom & flow of City Park http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/food-2/the-world-curry-festival-21st-to-23rd-june-bradford/ …
Jackpot. Within one tweet, just four enticing words announced the chance for me to start correcting nine years of wrongdoing, in one gluttonous afternoon of curry indulgence! Hello…
Held annually in Bradford’s City Park, the World Curry Festival is a small affair with just a smattering of stalls to showcase why Bradford deserves its curry accolades. A gloomy, sodden ‘British Summer’s day’ may have meant that the festival wasn’t bombarded by the masses, but it wasn’t enough to put serious curry lovers off, with a small but fervent crowd enthusiastically stuffing their faces with all manner of spicy dishes. Although a small-scale festival, there was more than enough choice to have me flummoxed by the options before me, and I circumnavigated the park at least four times before swooping in to claim my prizes.
Sticking two fingers up to the woeful weather with open-air cooking, rallying cries and a cheerfully colourful banner, ZOUK was the one to lure me in first. I’d actually encountered their stall just weeks before at the Leeds food festival, but was too full from the glorious offerings of Fish&, Sandinista and Mango to be able to fit in their wares as well.
ZOUK reminded me why being a vegetarian is BRILLIANT when it comes to Indian food. The dish du jour often revolves around paneer, which makes me very happy indeed. I adore paneer. A firm cheese that soaks up flavour like a thirsty sponge, ZOUK’s Paneer Wrap embodied everything I loved about it. Fat chunks of paneer were the vessel for a smoky and spicy flavour with a lingering kick of intense heat, accompanied by sweet chutney and a cooling yoghurt. Surrounded by crisp iceberg leaves and swathed in a soft, floury wrap, it was an exquisite ode to the most distinguished of Indian fromages.
Although the paneer wrap was deceptively filling, my work was not done yet. This was a curry festival, after all! I had a hankering for smaller bites, so gravitated towards Zaara’s after spying fellow festival-goers emerging with alluring appetisers. Well, it was that and the Michelin man on Zaara’s banner which drew me in. The Michelin seal of approval always captivates me, so I was intrigued by Zaara’s affiliation with the hallowed foodie guide.
I certainly wasn’t alone, with a deluge of people crowding around a production line of diligent chefs dishing up daals, bhajis, samosas and naans. Amongst these more familiar offerings was the Aloo Tikki, a starter I’d not encountered before. Silky rounds of mashed potato were fried and then adorned with a blanket of coriander-mint chutney, yoghurt and another sweeter chutney which may have been ‘saunth’, a traditional accompaniment to Aloo Tikki according to my good friend, google!
A very unusual dish more akin to mashed potato rather than the crisp, deep fried snack I was expecting, the flavours and textures married seamlessly.
I was fit to burst at this point, but there’s always room for cake, right? Passing the Lahore stand, a pretty stack of cakes were being handed out to passers-by, so I graciously accepted. I know, such a martyr. A spongy, moist chocolate base topped with even more creamy chocolate and a flake, it may have pushed me over the edge but it was worth every last calorie!
Bradford’s World Curry Festival was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it offered a great introduction to the city’s cherished cuisine. A proud celebration of all-things curry, my only qualm was the lack of representation from the smaller curry houses that I’ve heard so many good things about – a lot of the stands seemed to be bigger, shinier restaurants. But then I only visited on one of the festival’s three days, and this was only my first foray into Bradford curry, so there’s plenty of time for more!
Have you had a curry in Bradford? Share your favourites if so… my Bradford curry journey has just begun!