Pre-theatre eats: Northern Soul goes to Bradford
In the first of a new series focusing on places to eat before the theatre, Rich Jevons visits Bradford, sampling the wares at the 1914 Restaurant, Media Cafe, Cyrus and Nando’s.
As you enter the 1914 Restaurant on the top floor of Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre, the unbeaten breathtaking view over the city takes your breath away. Now that we have the City Park with its remarkable water feature (used as a paddling pool by kids and revellers alike), it’s a heart-warming sight, too. All that is needed now are the plans to revive the old Odeon building into a music venue and the seeds of hope that date back to Bradford’s Capital of Culture bid for 2008 (we lost out to Liverpool) will have come to fruition.
At 1914, the service throughout is unfussy but helpful and the menu is mouth-wateringly appetising. From a choice of some eight starters I select the soup of the day (carrot and coriander) which is a lovely little creamy concoction with rustic croutons that takes me back to my late teens when soup was one of my specialities using a home blender.
But I’m pretty envious of our photographer Amy Cockshott’s choice of the ballotine of chicken and sun-dried tomato with a pomegranate dressing and a mixed herb salad. This is sumptuously displayed and Amy assures me it has set her taste buds tingling for the main.
For the main course there is a choice of ten dishes including three vegetarian options. As I love my seafood I can’t resist the Fish of the Day which is a fish duo of salmon and swordfish served with spring greens and roast potato. One of my ‘How do they do that?’ questions for the staff here is how they manage to present the steamed veg in a perfectly circular mound. The answer is no state secret, it’s just a microwave utensil that they turn upside down.
Somehow, gastronomic experts that we are, there is still room and time for puds, and I take the, er, healthy option of the vanilla panacotta replete with sumptuous Chinese gooseberries. Amy, always one to be contrary, pigs out on the hot chocolate sponge pudding with ice cream which she also shares with me, and it ain’t half hot, mum.
So it isn’t just the view that is awe-inspiring here; it’s a splendid service and grand cuisine. All three combined set you up for a tremendous night at the theatre.
The Media Café at Bradford’s National Media Museum should be celebrated as one of the city’s hidden gems. As well as being in one of Yorkshire’s leading tourist attractions, the café also is within two minutes walk of the Alhambra Theatre and a mere five mins from St George’s Hall.
It has a lovely ambience with a comfy seated area for those just having a cuppa or something a bit stronger from the wide range of international wines and Yorkshire ales. The spacious dining area has an airy feel with classic black and white film stills and projection on the walls, plus, on this evening at least, a rather nice bit of trad jazz.
The offer during our visit is on three Tapas dishes for just £8 or £11.95 with a glass of homemade Sangria. These are beautifully served and an ample feast for even our voracious appetites. As usual I opt for the fish and vegetarian options, namely the croquettes made with fresh langoustines, Spanish omelette and the star-of-the-show haddock goujons.
Amy takes in the patatas bravas, chunky slow-fired potatoes topped with a fiery (but not overpowering) spicy tomato sauce; the buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil bruschetta; and the beef meatballs which I managed to savour too with much satisfaction.
The non-alcoholic cocktails, Virgin Strawberry Mojito and Virgin Sunrise, make a smashing accompaniment to the meal adding to the tangy taste-bud-tingling sensations that both fresh food and drink produce.
It would just be so WRONG not to indulge in the delicious desserts (and why not at just £3.95?). The Chantilly profiteroles are simply sublime and the selection of the chocolate was as rich in nature as I am by name (and it’s gluten free too!)
A delightful dining venue that provides a high-class service and a menu to die for at a budget price and all in lovely laid-back environs – Northern Soul highly recommends The Media Café.
Next, I wanted to find a restaurant of high quality located within minutes of the Alhambra but often overlooked as a venue for a pre-theatre meal. We found it at Cyrus on Morley Street, serving a wide range of food including a traditional Mediterranean menu as well as grill, pizza, calzone and curries.
Despite being in the city centre, you are instantly transported into a green and fertile world, complete with vine leaves in the rafters; a decorating choice that infuses the space with an invigorating freshness. There are some delightful starters – Amy opts for a Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, green pepper and feta cheese and I try the delicious dolma, vine leaves stuffed with rice, onion, parsley, herbs and spices.
The owner, Afghan-born Habib Karimi, talks us through the specials which include Kokkinisto, Stifado, Pastitsio, Gheimeh, Bamiya, Kleftiko, Rago and Gheimeh. But it’s the moussaka that takes Amy’s fancy with the minced lamb mixed in layers of baked potato and aubergine, topped off with a lush creamy béchamel and cheese sauce. Predictably, perhaps, I can’t resist the grilled sea bass which is beautifully presented and comes off the bone in juicy flaky chunks.
There is a great choice of sweets too, including Baklava, Kataifi and Faloodeh. For me it’s the fudge cake with ice cream that wins the day and Amy, on a dieting fad, has the Greek yoghurt with honey and nuts. In the absence of students (it wasn’t term-time), and a bit early for the main diners, the place was quiet but this gave us a bit of time to chat to Habib about his vision for Cyrus, which includes an online takeaway menu. But it leaves us with plenty of time to move onto our theatre engagement from this veritable culinary TARDIS.
And if you want an eaterie that excels at pure simplicity, speed of delivery, but is located close to the Alhambra, then Nando’s is the place for you. We were in quite a hurry this night but still had time to take in the Altogether Now Appeteaser. This consists of spicy mixed olives, red pepper dip, hummus with PERi-PERi drizzle and warm pitta in a sumptuous display.
The Nando way is to go to the counter and order your mains, and we went for the £19.95 deal which includes a whole chicken with two regular sides – in our case corn-on-the-cob with chips – and then you have unlimited drinks (you do need it with the spice). And although our order was fairly fiery you can set this at a chosen level according to taste. Just to make sure we get one of our five-a-day we finish with carrot cake.
Although the place was full to brimming, the table service kept checking on us without being intrusive and you didn’t really feel like you were in a chain. It had a friendly feel and the manager came over at the end to explain the Nando’s ethic. It all comes from a very simple idea with a Cajun recipe that spread like wildfire.
By Rich Jevons
These are just four ideas of places to eat before going to the theatre in Bradford. We will be continuing this series in other locations (Leeds and Halifax are already next on the list) so if have a Yorkshire restaurant you would like to recommend then please email Northern Soul’s Rich Jevons at firstname.lastname@example.org
For suggestions of pre-theatre menus in other Northern cities, please contact Northern Soul’s Assistant Editor Stephanie Alderson at email@example.com
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