Chef Aktar Islam will open his first solo restaurant in Birmingham in May.
Islam, former chef director of Birmingham’s Lasan Group, has said 70-cover Opheem will celebrate the culinary heritage of India.
He explained: “Opheem will take diners on an intoxicating culinary journey. We are going back to the future to explore the diverse culinary heritage of India and explore the foundations of this grand cuisine.
“It has been my dream to create a restaurant dedicated to the forward-thinking traditions of Indian cooking, championed by chefs to the historic empires as far back as the 13th century, moving from the Mughals through to the era of the British Raj.
“We will seek to emulate the work of chefs attached to the royal courts. They were at the forefront of gastronomy and took ingredients from India and combined them with influences from China, Persia, Arabia and Afghanistan, as well as later influences from France, Portugal and Britain.
“They were the true forefathers of progressive gastronomy and we want to continue their work as we believe there are opportunities for Indian cuisine to develop, grow and flourish further.
“The royal kitchens were melting pots of flavours. The chefs were imaginative and progressive, and Opheem will carry forward this spirit. We will take inspiration from the age-old recipes enjoyed by the mughals, nizams and maharajas, and combine them with the best produce from the British Isles, always staying attuned to the best seasonal ingredients.”
Seasonal menus will include an an à la carte offering, featuring classic dishes such as Aktar’s signature Hyderabadi goat biryani and recipes inspired by his mother, Dilara. There will also be a tasting menu, with an optional wine flight, and lighter grazing plates.
Starters will include samudrapheni – octopus, tandoori spices and pickled carrot – and parai – Cornish mackerel, Goan fermented chilli and jaggeri, and Tokyo turnip.
Main courses will feature allepy – Cornish turbot, courgette, wilted greens, tempered Keralan coconut milk and raw mango – and Aktar’s unique spin on vindaloo – pork jowl, pickled vindaloo purée, star anise heritage carrots, roasted whey onion and confit garlic.
Elaborate desserts will include doodh – curd dumpling, milk sorbet, milk skin, granita, yoghurt shard and finger lime – and naashapaatee – pear and cassia leaf tart, almond and Bengali rice pudding ice cream.
The restaurant will feature a 14-cover private dining room and a bar where snacks and small plates will be served.
Islam added: “I am thrilled to be launching Opheem at such an exciting time in Birmingham’s culinary development. Some of the country’s finest chefs work in the city and I am hugely grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from the chef community and the dining public. The team and I will be working hard to ensure Opheem adds to Birmingham’s sterling reputation for great food.”
Islam won “Best Local Restaurant” on The F Word, fronted by celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay in 2002.
Appearing on Great British Menu in 2011 Islam cooked the fish course at the final banquet alongside Tom Kerridge, Paul Ainsworth and Chris Fearon. He went on to help oversee the Lasan restaurant group’s expansion to several sites in Birmingham, including Fiesta Del Asado, Izza Pizza in Selfridges, Raja Monkey Indian Street Cafe, and Nosh & Quaff.
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