I don’t know what it is about Bradford? There’s just something about it, and no, it’s not the multi cultural aspect, which, to someone who was regularly dragged around Huddersfield Monday market as a nipper, feels frankly normal. Why is it always at the butt end of jokes? Often undeserved ones as well, referring to it’s diversity. It wasn’t the fault of the good burghers of the city that left the centre resembling a concrete version of a polo mint for several years, it was the bankers who were responsible for the last financial crash that did that.
Whatever it is, Loiners are often accused of looking down on our smaller neighbour, indeed, the uneducated could be forgiven for thinking that the two neighbours are in fact one seamless city of over 1.5 million people. Even the great Don McCullin got mixed up with his photo ‘Houses in Bradford’ which are well and truly in Pudsey, Leeds. If you’re familiar with the photograph, just have a look on the left going up Stanningley by-pass, on the opposite side to Owlcoates shopping centre, I think it’s Standale Avenue. Having said all that, Leeds hasn’t got a world heritage site and Bradford has an equally impressive historical legacy and architectural evidence of much prosperity.
Over the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been hearing really good things about Bradford, a bit of an uplift around the centre and rumours of a bit of a beer revolution thing going on, so armed with a Metro Family Day Rover ticket I set off with Mrs C and a few friends to go see.
Now those of you familiar with the West Yorkshire transport system will know that the £11.70 ticket gives you unlimited travel across the Metropolitan area for a whole day and there is no obligation to take three kids and a dog with you, it works equally well for two adults on their own and no one checks whether you are from the same family or not. On Weekends or off peak, that means lots of cool trips out involving the railway, like into Leeds and then on the train to do the ale trail, Cas vegas and Wakey, Wakey, Huddersfield or Bradford on this occasion. Sort of West Yorkshire is your Oyster card.
En route, I was fortunate enough to bump into the brewing legend that is Dave Sanders, in Leeds station Wetherspoons. The conversation went something like, ‘Where you off today?’, ‘Bradford.’ ‘Where you planning to go?’ So I showed him my list and he approved, recommending some over others and demoting a couple to maybes. Guess what? He was bang on as well. Our choices were also confirmed when I later picked up the latest Tyke Taverner which detailed a recent CAMRA social evening around the pubs I had picked out.
Now the beery highlights of Bradford seem to be centred on North Parade and the first stop was The Sparrow , which has been open for five years now. I think was one of, if not ‘the’ first of the post modernist bars in Bradford. I will say now that this visit focusses on bars, rather than pubs, of which Bradford has many, some of them rather good too. They’ll have to be covered on another day, in another article!
First thoughts? My sort of place, a sort of cross over between a bar and a café. Seven keg lines, four cask ales, four ciders and a host of bottles, there was a decent wine selection too. The main focus here was definitely quality, quality, quality. A first for me here as well, I’d never seen Mordue (X2) brewery ales on keg before, which was a surprise and maybe an indication of where keg beer is going or where respected brewers are going. I had a detailed discussion on this later that afternoon. Personally I’m non too fussed how the beer comes, so long as it is good beer. There’s a theme building here, quality, quality, quality. You can’t have eleven cask ales on in a bar that can only comfortably accommodate probably one hundred folk at once and key keg is a valid option for a lot of places. Long live cask ales.
The Sparrow looks and feels like a café. There’s some red formica retro tables and matching chairs in a selection of different coloured vinyl covers and light coloured wood. I’ve seen plenty like this in WMC’s and I remember them from the club room in my Dad’s pub, think early 1960’s in terms of era. Every table had a nice posy on too. I couldn’t fault the service, the lady behind the bar was exceptionally friendly and polite. As soon as she saw us going to sit outside she realised there weren’t enough chairs and followed us out with supplementary stools before we even realised. Another nice touch was the cosy blanket on each chair on the pavement, just in case it came cooler.
In terms of beer, we were offered tasters of several cask ales, all of them actually, before three of us went for the First Chop Citra which was faultless, the brewery’s web page is also interesting solely featuring a calming panorama of cool woodland? Other selections were the Bernard Pilsner (Dark, unfiltered and cooking), Cider and a Latte. I thought the prices were reasonable to pretty cheap. The Latte came beautifully presented on a rather nice retro china platter. The local CAMRA branch seems pleased with The Sparrow and there were several accolades adorning the walls, something that evidences to me that CAMRA members aren’t stuck in the mud and know what quality is when they see or taste it.
Overall I was very impressed. There was just a really good feel to the place. I didn’t visit the toilet facilities but if they followed the theme then they will have been fine.
Verdict – Café bar meets quality selection of cask, keg and bottled beers from UK and Europe, with an emphasis on quality with a big Q. I will definitely be back.