When Aktar Islam was at Lasan, his innovative Indian food won out on the ‘Great British Menu’. But one award that has eluded the Brum chef is a Michelin star, which might be why he’s recently gone it alone and all-out with Opheem.
In his own words, this plush new restaurant and bar is ‘me, unleashed’. But that’s not to say the chef is charging round the tastefully appointed room with a meat cleaver. Even the amuse-bouches confirmed that, creatively, he’s holding nothing back – a sesame-seed biscuit bomb of strawberry and intense spice jolted my taste buds into gear.
The starter, a gloriously crispy soft shell crab in caraway seed tempura, was one of the chef’s award winners, and rightly so. But even that was upstaged by the moist chargrilled nuggets of goosnargh chicken on a bed of earthy bulgur wheat with perky spring onion and pickled gem broccoli.
My laal maans main was another signature dish that surpassed its billing. And the Herdwick lamb loin was florid pink, tender and jacked up with tandoori flavour, while the smoked mathia chilli and bone marrow sauce doubled down with full-on blasts of sweetness and heat. In contrast, the tandoori monkfish was understated but firm and dewy, lifted by some tangy curried gourd and a subtle coconut and fish tamarind sauce.
A gold leaf-strewn bonbon of rich Manjari chocolate with passion fruit ended things on a high. As we left, walking under a quirky constellation of bulbs, we felt sure Michelin would soon see the light at Opheem.