With Bradford ultimately rising from the shadows, Amanda Wragg checks out the city’s halal fine-dining eatery.
Cona, a halal fine dining eatery, sits on a corner on the bottom edge of Little Germany and is the owned by two young businesspeople, Oman Ran and Armi Ahmed, self-confessed foodies who have wandered around the world searching for the best eating experiences. They planned to give young professional Muslims a fair alternative to curry fare. The joy of Cona is that everyone’s welcome.
As you approach, you grasp you’ve arrived somewhere special. The interior is all concrete and corian. I don’t remember seeing a single object on the reception desk other than an espresso machine.
Notwithstanding the sparseness, a tremendous amount of attention has gone into the detail. Mid-century modernists will notice the Hans Wegner Round chairs and that beaten copper monster of a coffee machine is one of barely two made annually.
The Italian-ish menu is as peeled down as the room. A lot of starters and mains as is de rigeur, and covers the likes of hazelnut, poached egg, asparagus, rapeseed mayo and cauliflower risotto, both battling for our attention, but salmon confit with cucumber juice wins. And what an absolute delight it is, summer on a plate. Beautiful fresh colours and flawlessly judged fish, the cucumber adding sweetness and crunch.
It’s not often I’m willing to work my way into a menu, dish by dish. But it’s amazingly hard to choose. Mushroom gnocchi, argula, roast shallot, parmesan? Beef ragu pappardelle? Eventually, it’s braised beef, mash and lamb for me and carrots for my plus one.
Beef-wise, the ideal package lands. A sticky, seriously dark piece of meat, pureed potato and slices of sweet carrot are nicely placed on an attractive pottery plate.
Likewise, the lamb is prepared wonderfully – pink, tender as you like, bursting of flavour. There’s a scattering of nut granola which may seem odd, but it works, bringing texture. Extra unlikely addition are solids of ewes milk cheese; someone’s considered this through so well. In the kitchen is Gavin Jackson who’s done a job at the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey.
Desserts are awesome: a pistachio and olive oil cake, dotted with an exceptional strawberry coulis offers extra deep sounds, and an excellent chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream just left me speechless. This is bold, modern food, full of surprises.
Armi spent his childhood a mile from the door. He utilises local butchers but his veg, bucking the air miles trend, comes once per week from Runji’s market in Paris. Cona doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages. San Pellegrino blood orange does a great job. And as you’d assume, the coffee is astounding. Prices are as very acceptable, with starters around £4.50 and mains circling £12.
Congratulations to this enterprising pair. They‘ve splashed heart, soul and a lot of money into an untapped market.