People have been enjoying restaurant quality curries in Bradford since the late 1950s when the first generation migrated from Commonwealth countries, namely India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh after the Secord World War and the Partition of India to seek employment and a different life for themselves, bringing family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, with them.
The oldest curry house in Bradford that still exists today is the Kashmir which was established in 1950, followed by Karachi, which opened as the Karachi Social Club in 1958, and the Sweet Centre in 1964. These restaurants were the place to be, with workers and students alike eating and hanging out at these establishments.
Karachi is currently owned by Mumrez Khan, who has worked at the restaurant for just shy of fifty years. In 2002, food critic Rick Stein visited the restaurant, and it is still known for its lamb and spinach curry that Mr Khan bequeathed Mr Stein.
According to the head chef of Karachi, Muhammed Rafaqat, the first dish sold at the restaurant would have been a keema curry with chapatis for around 40p.
The chef, who has worked at the restaurant for around 24 years, said: “The restaurant was established around 1958, I started working at the restaurant in 1998. When the restaurant first opened, a keema curry with chapatis for workers and students cost around 40p or 50p or so.
“When I joined, the restaurant sold curry for around £2.80, today a normal curry costs around £7.50. People today enjoy chicken and spinach, chicken masala and chicken Karahi.”
Opened by brothers Haji Abdul Rehman and Mohamed Bashir in 1964, who were later joined by their youngest brother, Abdul Aziz in the 1970s, the Sweet Centre began as a halal butchers’ shop, being quickly expanded into a grocery store before the brothers decided to buy 110 Lumb Lane and transform it into a café and the restaurant that we know today.
According to Waqar Ali Mughal, grandson of Mr Bashir and the current owner of the restaurant, the first curry his grandfather and great-uncle would have sold is chicken curry (on the bone) and it would have cost around 30p or 40p, or around eight shillings, which adjusted for inflation, cost around £8.64, today.
Mr Mughal said: “In those days, people still used the old currency with pence and shillings, but the average curry back in those days cost around 30p or 40p.
“For around five or 10p, you could get quite a lot of samosas. The curry used to be measured by weight, not by portion as well. The first one we sold was hen-on-the-bone.
“During that time, you could only get meat on the bone. They still used to have chapatis with their curry. We introduced chickpea curry and dishes with potato at around the same time.”
He added: “They used to make certain sauces with the chicken stock, like a soup, which would keep them warm during the harsh winters. The mill workers used to have chickpeas and potatoes because it was slow energy-releasing foods that used to keep people going.
“People would take their food away sometimes, but customers would often come here as the Sweet Centre restaurant was a home-away-from-home, where people used to socialise, especially if their wives were back home.”
Aziz Ahmed, owner of Aziz Catering, watched his mum set up an informal café at his childhood home after his father passed away.
At the same time, he would visit the Kashmir with his friends as a student, where they would spend a couple of pence on a keema curry and fill up with free roti.
Mr Ahmed said: “When I attended school in the 1970s, our first restaurant was the Kashmir. The food was amazing, you can eat as many rotis as you want, you would only pay for the curries.
“There were around ten or twelve of us who attended college and we would go to the restaurant together and the curries were pennies, around half a crown or something like that. Keema was the number one dish on the menu, every student had keema, I think because it was the cheapest meal on the menu.”