My first official visit to Bradford or as I know it as ‘Bradistan’ was more of a business trip than a social one. So all the arrangements were made by the colleagues I was travelling with.
Bradford is Twinned with Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan so I am not surprised that Bradford has been voted the Curry Capital of Britain since 2011 – will it win again for the 5th time?
Leaving London on the morning of a tube strike did not help my journey that started at 7 am; just trying to get to Worcester Park took almost 2 hours. As soon as we hit the M1 I started ‘Are we there yet?’
We eventually landed in Bradford centre around 3:45pm First Impressions?
Bradford is like any town up north. Small, derelict looking or going through face lift, uphill, people not as sociable as were in South … Well like me.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon and as the boys went for their meeting us the ladies went out window shopping. We had just less than 2 hrs to taste the Bradford life from a female’s point of view.
If that was Bradford centre then I hate to think what the rest of Bradford was like…if I was to describe it in one word then it would have to be depression…sorry but I am from up north myself from a little town called Bolton. Bolton has developed as it has grown in population, Bolton has kept its originality in architecture but has transformed for today’s way of looking and living. Maybe Bradford is going through that phase?
One thing I learnt is that if you want to go anywhere , it’s referred to by its postcode like BD1, BD7 or BD9 I mention these postcodes as these are the ones that were assumed where we wanted to go by the Uber taxi drivers or just passers-by, who we approached to ask about shopping areas or hairdressers.
These postcodes were the Asian areas for food, fashion and more food!
In all honesty, no matter which way you go, by car or by foot, it’s literally 10 minutes down the road. The locals thought we were mad for walking all 11 minutes of what they thought was a twenty minute walk. Maybe due to our fast paced life we walk faster. So therefore, what we call a 10 minute walk to them that’s far!
Any way in the first half an hour we had walked to ‘The Bradford Bazaar’ that claimed to be the largest Asian shopping mall with over 100 stalls of fashion food and culture. In reality, an indoor market that makes Ridley road market looks like Westfield!
Talking of Westfield, Bradford is getting ready for Westfield Bradford so maybe that will wake up the town, at the moment it seems to be in hibernation.
We managed to find a hairdresser …a polish hairdresser with a mixture of polish and Bradford accent …I have seen and heard it all. Only I could not for the life of me work out what we were hearing… Out came Google translator.
The people of Bradford where hospitable and genuine at heart especially the foreigners, the Pakistani’s, the eastern Europeans But I did feel the English folks very rarely made eye contact with you or if you smiled they just looked at you blankly. There seemed to be an air of segregation in the community, working parallel to some very different cultures and lifestyles.
After contacting a FB friend who in 2 sentences suggested where I should eat and shop, I felt I had already seen those areas whilst driving to Rio Grande and back that evening. Did I want to see it again the following morning?
Our main meal before leaving for London would have been Breakfast/Brunch, Sweet Centre was suggested as the top for Puri, Halva and Chana.
What can I say we sat down after ordering and were stared upon as we waited for our food. One Customer said ‘this is self-service’ nodding his head vigorously and looking at the food on counter.
The cafe owner shouted our order a numerous times before we realised it was ours!
Some customers just looked at us in disgust whilst others muttered under their breath…We were so engulfed in our own conversation that we did not realise how out of place we must have looked. We were a group of four people, two men, two women, 3 Asians and one male Portuguese. Both women dressed in jeans and top-decently covered.
The customers, all Asians just looked at us as if we were from another planet; we ate what we could quickly as one of our group member refused to eat the food after one taste… Suddenly, feeling uneasy, so we just left without finishing our meal!
It was the morning of Jumma (Friday) and families were out for breakfast.
It was a lovely sight to see and difficult to comprehend, because this is something families would do on a weekend here in London. But for Bradford Jumma was a day when most shops were closed, especially the bazaars, being a family business, I assumed preparations were being made for Jumma prayers .
We then headed towards Zoya another recommendation but by now we were starving like Marvin!
We walked into Zoya and were warmly welcomed by a smart well-dressed waiter who greeted us and showed us to our table, and like true spoilt southerners we chose our table, which he happily accommodated us.
From the moment we sat down, the staffs at Zoya was attentive to every detail, not just with us but with all their customers.
The atmosphere was clam, the seating plan was spacious, the decor was relaxing and the customer service was as it should be.
The food was exceptional fresh, traditional, but also catering for our non-Asian customers, Well presented and tasty.
The staff new how to treat their customers and made sure that no one was overlooked. For instance we asked for chai, two out of three cups was perfect the fourth one needed to be hotter. We asked it to be warmed up a little, the waiter offered to bring a fresh cup of tea, which I thought was a perfect gesture to an awkward situation.
Simple situations can make a world of difference when in a customer service relation.
The array of sweets were to die for and as a treat on our way out we took away a selection of what is a must after an Asian meal. Well done to Zoya and Thank you.
Bradford centre like most towns up north is going through a transformation, there is history there, there is beauty there and I know there is warmth there but at present that is not apparent. I would have liked to have stayed longer and experience the community spirit – if any, but unfortunately it was just a drive through visit.
I do believe in first impressions…
Ms Safirah Irani