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Hazel Davis awards big scores to Bradford's finest

Published on October 14th 2008.


Showing all the cultural awareness of an Outer Mongolian hammering on Morrisons on Christmas Day demanding a tin of spam, I pitched up to Mumtaz (or 'The World Famous Mumtaz' as it hails itself) in the middle of Ramadan at sunset.

So it should have been no surprise that the place was absolutely heaving with most of the local Muslim community getting their Iftihar on. Luckily, the Bradford behemoth hasn’t got where it is today by not being prepared, and we were hastily sent upstairs for a free starter while all hands were on deck.

And what a shiny deck it is. With granite on every available surface not made of glass, the place positively dazzles. Far from being an authentic Asian dining experience, Mumtaz is authentically late twentieth century, more redolent of aspirational Far East architecture than anything else. Young enough to dictate its own heritage, you’ll find no flock wallpaper here.

On the night we went, the restaurant was a real mix of people, from young couples and families to animated groups of friends. Despite the throng, our waiter shimmied over and took our order, which we chose from a heady list of delicious-sounding dishes. Delicious sounding and deliciously described. Before the food had arrived, it was clear that some serious marketing has gone on here. The Mumtaz logo is on everything, so you are never in any doubt as to where you are. And the menu describes itself in glowing terms. Velvety flavours and marriages made in heaven; how could we not enjoy it?

Our free starters were a nice mix of lamb kebab, chicken wings and chick-pea stew. For my main course, though, I chose the large chicken keraki dopiaza (£13), with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cumin seed, red dry bullon chillies and coriander leaves. I ordered mild to be on the safe side and it was very mild indeed, though seriously delicious. My chicken was tender and the dopiaza was tasty enough. I paired it with a small portion of pilau rice (£2.25). My companion had a regular-sized kerahi lamb sookha bouhna (£7.85) with lamb on the (segmented) bone, featuring tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and spices. He declared the sauce nice and rich, not overpowering but a bit “gravyish”.

We shared a garlic naan (£1.95) and it was thin and flavoursome, well designed for scooping up food, unlike the rolled-up pillows you often get, and we both had lassis (mine a strawberry and his a mango at £3.95).

The dessert menu was a refreshing collection of real puddings and not frozen ready dishes. I tried and tried not to have my favourite ras malai (£2.75) but I couldn’t resist. It was worth it though, a really moist dish of milky dumplings with pistachio. My partner had rassogula (milky balls) (£2.50), nice and textured and creamy.

The waiting staff were unfailingly attentive and polite and we only had to so much as look up from the table to get instant service. There also appeared to be a young boy whose sole job it was to offer people extra water. Possibly the most boring job in the world but also the easiest and with least chance of complaint. There was some excitement as a deeply embarrassed boyfriend on the table behind us received a birthday cake complete with sparkler. He could barely cope with the humiliation but his girlfriend was delighted as the waiter half-sung the first verse of Happy Birthday then realised no-one else was joining in and skulked off.

My – as advertised – creamy and velvety latte (£2.25) was a nice way to round everything off and as we looked around we realised that the rush had passed and there were just a few handfuls of people having coffee and chilling out. We stayed awhile, talking and taking in the peace and quiet but didn’t feel like we were in the way. We left, via the shiny foodhall, very happy customers.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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