IT COST me rather more than most albums do, and certainly more than a download, but the triple-gatefold 12-inch record in pristine heavyweight vinyl which I bought at the Record Cafe is already one of my very favourite things. I’m playing it now, as it happens.
North Parade always used to be the street for luxury goods in Bradford city centre; its shops were always a cut above. And when I chanced upon this place during a spare and thirsty hour I was immediately taken by the concept of a bar where you can drink great beer, graze on interesting charcuterie food, and browse old-style racks of records. It’s a good job I don’t live closer; I could spend a fortune in here.
Keith Wildman’s passion for music began close by. “In my teenage years, weekends were spent going to record shops during the day and going to gigs in the evening. When I first started buying records I’d get the bus into town, choose the record I wanted, have that whole ritual of looking at the sleeve, taking it home and finally dropping the needle onto it for the first time. It was an experience. Everything is instant now; it’s not the same.”
Even so, it took a trip to the 6-Music Festival for the idea for Record Cafe to finally crystallise: “There was a stall run by a shop called Pie and Vinyl in Portsmouth. They are literally a record shop that serves pies.”
Back home his idea took shape, with the concept based around quality produce, carefully curated. “I could tell you about everything here,” says Keith, waving a hand over his four real ale handpulls, seven keg taps and towards the legs of cured ham hanging over the bar. “We opened in November 2014 and we’re still here, so that tells you something.”
The choice on draught changes all the time, and the current buoyant state of the craft beer market is such that few fail to sell to a knowledgeable clientele eager to try something different. “We had an 8% Double Sour ale from Chorlton Brewery – and it flew out. And this is in Bradford, remember.”
Apart from the simple wooden furniture and attractive, curve-fronted bar, there are some quirky design touches. Colourful craft beer cans have been re-invented as minimalist flower vases, records as lamp shades, album covers as menu-holders. The whole place is a shrine to beer and food and music, as more of life should be.
It’s aimed as squarely at ageing prog rockers like myself as at today’s new-wave bearded hipster beer-lovers. The legs of ham are the heart of the cheese and charcuterie food which brings an on-trend dimension to the Record Cafe experience.
“I’ve always thought that in any bar, the best food is a ploughman’s lunch – so what we do is really a Spanish ploughman’s.” The fact it’s all served cold removes the need for a kitchen and means that it can be easily assembled in a tiny space at one end of the bar. “It’s easy,” says Keith. “The people who rear the pigs have done all the hard work for you.”
Word has spread, and now with the Sparrow Bar and Bradford Brewery Tap nearby, this little northern corner of the city centre has become a drinkers’ paradise. But the formula at the Record Cafe keeps this place determinedly different: “We have got a reputation for what we do. We’re a vinyl record shop which happens to sell beer and food and if people don’t like it I’m not too bothered.
“It means much more to me when people come in and say that it’s great.”
North Parade, Bradford
Host: Keith Wildman
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-11pm Sun
Beers: Changing selection of four hand-pulled real ales plus seven keg beers and lots of canned and bottled beers. The choice always includes a variety of strengths and styles
Food: Choice of charcuterie and cheese selections from £6
Entertainment: Quality piped music plus occasional special events
Beer garden: No
Children: No special facilities
Disabled: Straightforward access
Parking: City centre car parks and on-street parking areas nearby
Telephone: 01274 723143