Next up on our Saturday afternoon tour of Bradford was The Record Café and If I’m honest, I was a bit sceptical, a record shop, with beer? Doesn’t just sound right does it? One thing I was certain about, there was no way we’d find anywhere as good as The Sparrow was there?
Like, yeah, The Record Café. Summing it up in Leeds terms, it’s a sort of North bar that’s collided with Crash Records and rolled into Friends of Ham. A sort of café beer bar, esoteric vinyl shop and Jamonarium, all in one. Guess what, it works and it’s brilliant.
If you like vinyl then go upstairs into the separate mezzanine floor where there is an esoteric selection of vinyl. Not cheap mind £24.99 for Rumours, one of the best selling albums of all time, but where else could you find an almost mint uncirculated copy these days?
If you like cured meat then there’s salamis and Jamon dangling behind the bar and a full leg of cured Spanish pork that you can’t see behind the counter, mounted on one of those special turny Jamon holder thingys that you see in Spain.
If you like beer, then wow! Six Keg, four cask, loads of bottles, Gins, Whiskeys, everything closely linked to the Q word – Quality.
Keith Wildman opened The Record Café in November 2014. His sort of blueprint was to open a bar with good cask ales but he started to think that if he’s going to have cask ales then why not get some quality keg beers in as well. He sort of thought that he liked records too, oh and Charcuterie, so there had best be a bit of that too
Chatting to Keith, it was clear that he thinks the same as I do. Although the pub was CAMRA pub of the season in Autumn 2015, Keith isn’t over precious about what constitutes good beer, so long as it is good beer and doesn’t get hung up on the real ale or nothing notion.
Keith told me that he’s not here to please everyone. All he’s done is curated a selection of things he knows about. Things he is interested in and understands and can explain to you. If people don’t like what he’s done then that’s fine with Keith.
It’s obvious that people do like what Keith has done because it’s nicely busy on a quiet Saturday afternoon. There’s a real good feel to the place, with a real cross section of people. There were even some die hard real ale types sampling the cask ales at the bar and it’s clear that Keith’s heretic views haven’t put anyone off.
Keith thanked us for coming when we left. Two hours later we came back for another because, for my money, this is as good as it gets. When we returned Keith was sat at one of the tables outside chatting with a group of people which summed up the chillaxed atmosphere of the place.
The ale got top marks. I could have permed any 8 from 10, but settled on a Vocation Bread and Butter. Our resident Lager expert settled on a Berliner Pilsner and there was plenty to suit our little group. On the second visit I went with one of Mrs C’s favourites, NMBCo Eternal in key-keg.
The diversity of customers in The Record Café was second to none and the total quality ethos probably explained why it was much busier than a nearby larger, more traditional style pub converted from an ex-bank type place.
Verdict – A Record shop with a bar that does food (Keith’s words, not mine) that is totally out of sight. If there is better in Bradford, or indeed anywhere, then someone please tell me. It has gone straight into my current top ten.