Aktar Islam’s lauded Birmingham restaurant eschews the familiarity and comfort of classic Indian cuisine in favour of something more contemporary and enticing
“Opheem is just me. Unleashed.” So says Aktar Islam describing his highly-lauded, Michelin-starred Birmingham restaurant, which strives to push the boundaries with Indian flavours.
Aston-born Islam, who grew up working in his father’s restaurant, is focused on demonstrating how Indian food has evolved. Forget tikka masala, the food at Opheem eschews the familiarity and comfort of classic Indian cuisine in favour of something contemporary and more enticing.
For Islam, the kitchen represents the ultimate place of freedom. Opheem’s progressive approach adopts a global range of cooking techniques; some traditional, some modern. In the kitchen, spices are ground by the brigade, and methods like pickling and fermenting are used to produce visually arresting dishes with distinct, defined flavours.
The restaurant’s seasonal menu is updated multiple times a year, and gives guests a choice of either five or 10 courses depending on how long they ‘want the adventure to last’. Designed as a tour of different states and cities in India, sample dishes include tandoori trout with mooli and mint; achaari pink fir potato with tamarind; halibut with Wye Valley asparagus with raw mango and coconut; and Nilgiri lamb shoulder with green pea and herbs. A concise à la carte is also available at lunch time.
Islam was once described by Gordon Ramsay as a ‘genius’, and it’s frankly hard to argue. Opheem is a restaurant that’s big on statement – further underpinned by the brutalist decorative style of dark metallic colours, rough plaster finishes and a giant nebula of on-trend lighting fixtures overhead – and impossible to ignore.