A RESTAURANT group which began its business life as a corner shop in Bradford in 1981 has opened its first restaurant in the city.

The Jinnah Group has invested more than £500,000 and created 32 jobs with the opening of Jinnah Bradford at Gatehaus building on Leeds Road, on the edge of the city centre.

Friday's official opening marked something of a homecoming for businessman Saleem Akhtar, who heads up the Jinnah Group.

Although it started life as a corner shop in Gladstone Street, Bradford - which remains family-owned and run - the Group hasn't had a Bradford restaurant until now.

The Group's other eateries are in Harrogate, Selby, York city centre and at Flaxton, near York. It also has a cash-and-carry in Bradford called United Foods.

Mr Akhtar, who came to Bradford from Pakistan at the age of 10, admitted that he was little nervous opening a restaurant in Bradford after many years mainly serving the people of North Yorkshire.

Jinnah Bradford - which received financial support from the council's Growth Zone - represents the 9th restaurant in the Jinnah Group. Before the credit crunch the Group boasted 16 branches.

Mr Akhtar said: "I was brought up in Bradford but the majority of our business has been in North Yorkshire. In 1991 we moved into North Yorkshire and became very successful. We expanded around North Yorkshire and down as far as Sheffield."

During the recession, the Group was forced to close seven outlets.

Now that the recession is over, the focus is back on growth, said Mr Akhtar.

Mr Akhtar said his son Qasim Khan, 20, was keen to open a Jinnah restaurant in his home city and he would be in charge of the Bradford restaurant.

"I have to prove myself in Bradford," said Mr Akhtar. "I am a little bit nervous. The food, service and atmosphere have all got to be right."

The food at Jinnah in Bradford includes traditional Kashmiri dishes along with pizzas, steaks and so on. It is alcohol-free, with a large range of 'mocktails'.

Chef Zed Khan has been brought in from Delhi, India, and chef Sami Khan is from Islamabad, Pakistan.

The restaurant can cater for 110 diners and is on one floor.

Friday's clientele included VIP customers Steve and Heather Allen, of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who have been dining at Jinnah restaurants for 15 years.

Mr Allen, 56, said: "If Saleem can't make it in Bradford, no-one can. His food is out of this world. Today we had a gourmet burger, lamb chops and lamb shank - all absolutely brilliant. We love Kashmiri food."

Mrs Allen, 52, said: "One week we dined out eight times at Jinnah. Every day and twice on Sunday."

Friday's opening coincided with Pakistani Independence Day. Jinnah is named after the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.