Michelin-starred Opheem is the creative outburst of Birmingham-born chef Aktar Islam, who pushes the boundaries of Indian cuisine with masterful dishes that combine an array of culinary techniques from ancient to modern.
Islam believes that cooking is, and always should be, a constantly evolving art form that takes inspiration from the past but strives to thrust dishes into the future in a way that not only comforts but challenges and confronts diners.
Inspired by the food he ate growing up with immigrant Bangladeshi parents, Islam was determined to take the flavours of his childhood and elevate them into dishes worthy of ‘kings and emperors’. He describes his passion in the kitchen as the ultimate freedom; a safe place where he can practice his creativity without constraint. Judging by the response he receives from diners and critics alike, this innate passion translates well to the plate.
Islam’s progressive gastronomic style involves grinding his own spices and using the classic arts of pickling and fermenting to create dishes that are striking to both the eyes and palate. Some recipes are from his study of 15th century culinary techniques while others simply derive from his mother’s kitchen. Careful research into his cultural heritage has ensured that his menus reflect many different regions of India with an occasional Persian and Arabian influence too.
The eight-course tasting menu is a great way to experience Islam’s full repertoire. Highlights include nandu Kerala – a king crab dish with cauliflower custard, pork broth and crispy rice; and shalgam gosht Delhi – salt-aged beef rib with Tokyo turnip, fermented garlic, smoked bone marrow and black cardamom sauce.
On the sweeter side of things, manjari Madagascar provides a decadent finale – a rich chocolate mousse with an Opalys sorbet and cocoa nibs. Wine flights are an optional addition to all the tasting menus but there is also a good selection of reds and whites available to order by the bottle or glass.