The World Curry Festival, 21st to 23rd June, Bradford

World Curry Festival Bradford 2013

The World Curry Festival returns to Bradford between the 21st and 23rd June, taking over the wonderful City Park for a weekend dedicated to the unofficial taste of the city.

The Festival covers curry in all its incarnations, from the rich and spice-laden dishes of the subcontinent, right through to the fiery mystery of the Far East.

We citizens of Bradford know a thing or two about curry.

We’re largely obsessed with it, and we’re blessed with some of the best Asian restaurants in the region, if not the entire country … Akbars, Mumtaz, Aagrah, along with the countless small canteen-style places that serve consistently good food at ridiculously cheap prices (my tip – The International’s Channa Murgh is a thing of great beauty). Yes, it still smarts a little that Prashad moved (some would say ‘defected’) just over the border into Leeds, but we’re still claiming that as one of ours, and it remains a wonderful place.

This city is a rich hunting ground for those favouring their food with a little, well, shall we say punch?

The festival programme is packed with events, from a market street through to a gala dinner. The Extremely Good Curry Show provides a showcase for some of the best curry chefs in the world to demonstrate their talents, and includes sessions from Mohammed Aslam, owner of the Aagrah chain, “Grand Master Chef” Hermant Oberoi from Mumbai, the brilliant Stephanie Moon from the Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate, and Malaysian chef Norman Musa, founder of the Ning restaurants in Manchester and York.

There’s also – and this is the exciting part – the chance to learn how to master the mysterious art of curry-making yourself under the expert guidance of tutors from Bradford College. This is a superb opportunity to learn from the real experts – Bradford College runs many highly regarded courses across the food industry in general, but also has a booming reputation for training chefs in international cuisine.

Bradford makes sense from a culinary angle, and the City Park provides an exciting space for it … the City Park has been a huge success, and is worth a visit in its own right. An urban space designed with both fun and practicality in mind, it’s turning out to be a versatile venue for everything from my morning run to work right up to Bollywood-styled TV spectaculars. If ever a bit of a risk on a seemingly expensive urban project paid off …

The World Curry Festival runs from the 21st to the 23rd June, in Bradford City Park, from 12 noon until 10pm on the Friday and Saturday, 7pm on the Sunday. There’s plenty of information on the Festival website, Facebook page or twitter, or just ask a Bradfordian.

We’re all going.

4 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about this festival since I attended it with my mum. This serves as a mini review, but a hope for what could make the festival really zing in future. I have left it a while before writing this, because I think it’s great that it’s in Bradford and because I know these festivals are expensive to put on, and in these days have to wash their face commercially

    Last year I went twice, and took my reluctant husband to it on the second time out, along with the kids. He had worked in Bradford throughout the disruption of the city park being built, and it had left him, along with many others sceptical about Bradford and the use of public funds to create that space.

    Whilst I won’t go as far as claiming he ate humble pie when he saw city park full of people of all ages and backgrounds, we certainly spent a great couple of hours milling about the stands dotted about, tasting bits here and there and splashing in the water with the kids. The day before I’d stood behind a lady and her son who claimed it was like being on holiday. The sun was shining, the water sparkling, the scents intoxicating. The slightly disordered, eclectic layout seems to add to the feeling of entering a different Bradford.

    So unfortunately I wanted that experience all over again. I waxed lyrical about it to my mum down south, who loves a curry, and she told all her friends that she was going to Bradford for the World Curry Festival.

    We arrived on a colder, blustery Saturday about 1pm. The stalls were set up in an orderly fashion. There were plastic chairs and tables in the centre where water had been. People formed orderly queues to purchase what they could if they’d gone to the takeaway. The vendors were busy, so you had to skirt around and guess which was worth spending your £5+ (each) on. There were some stands making stuff, some nice fresh fruit and veg too. A really good auditorium to listen to speeches from recognised names in the curry world.

    But it felt flat. It lacked sparkle. It felt commercial, admittedly that’s the downside to free events. It wasn’t warm enough to play with the water really, but it was constrained, and dull. The bit I went to anyway. We stayed for about 2 hours and then sloped off a bit non plussed. When we did relax and have fun was when the kids played on the grass.

    Putting on events I know you can’t please everybody. I’m sure that if we’d picked a different time, or if the weather had been better we’d have enjoyed the experience more. But my hope for next year would be

    1) More tastings away from having to queue. People circulating with samples and jostling for your hard earned £. Some banter, some colour
    2) A bit less conformity, a bit more personality. Yes a bit more eclectic, but the same-ness of the white tents made me feel it was homogenized.
    3) More planned activities for kids/families, or let’s face it turn the water back on, and have towels and deck chairs at the ready
    4) Invite the creative community to get involved, mix it up

    I have to say the Leeds Loves Food Festival bit in Millennium square, which I compared unfavorably to Bradford last year, also suffers from a similar commercial thrust, no doubt because having to pay for a stand doesn’t come cheap. But what would make it infinitely more enjoyable is being able to sample stuff (even if you paid a £5 for a book of tickets and could get an item here and there in exchange for a ticket or something )
    This year though the organisers thought about providing an event on Victoria Gardens which worked well, was more affordable, artisanal, vibrant and had planned family activities.

    So that’s just my opinion, I’m sharing because It’s easy to decide something is rubbish and don’t go back. I’d rather support these events, but more importantly WANT to go to them.

  2. Hi Emma

    I felt exactly the same as you about the curry festival last year. We recruited a couple of friends who we promised would have an amazing time given the experience we had last year. Sadly it didn’t live up to the expectation. Unfortunately I think part of this was due to crappy weather they had that weekend. But the other part was, it just didn’t have the number of stands that there were last year – where was Prashad serving Chaat? Kaushy Patel was doing a live demo at the theatre but her restaurant wasn’t represented.

    Such a shame but I don’t think I will really bother attending next year unless they jazz it up a bit.

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