Ever since visiting Birmingham’s Indian restaurant Lasan in early 2015, I knew great things were going to come of Aktar Islam as an award-winning English chef. After producing so many culinary delights at other places; fast forward a few years and Aktar has now opened another restaurant by the name of Opheem, located on Summer Row in Birmingham City Centre. Before visiting at the start of July, I’d heard nothing but praise for the place, and with very, very good reason. Josh and I visited with no expectations and with a quick glimpse of the menu, I was looking forward to a meal that I didn’t have to blog about. Oh how we laughed, because in true style of a food blogger, the food and restaurant was too damn good not to show you. So here we go.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the decor. Reviving the old space where Mechu used to be, they’ve done an amazing job with renovating the place. The sleek grey walls are something I’ve now been dreaming about having in my house because the place looks so simplistic, expensive and hella’ fancy! The tables and chairs decor is lush and don’t get me started on the sky of interior lights which hover above the tables. Showcasing racks of wine at the back of the restaurant, perfectly polished table cutlery and shiny glasses on tables, this really is the type of place you’d bring someone if you were trying to woo them as it makes a fantastic first impression. I also love the fact you can see directly into the open-plan kitchen so you can watch the chefs prepare your meal. They’ve really put some thought into the layout of the restaurant and on the night we were told we had the best seat in the house from the back of the room.
Opheem Amuse Bouche
We ordered starters and mains and between the courses we received several amuse bouches. The first was an incredible combination of flavours on a spoon, accompanied by what only looked like black popcorn on the side that melted in the mouth. I wish I could remember what was on the spoon because it was one of the best tasters I’ve ever eaten. It was topped off with some crunchy nibbles which provided a lasting explosion of both sweet, sour and salty flavours. My favourite was the stunning lamb pate, accompanied by a pinch of cumin and warm, sweet potato bread. It tasted like a meal in itself and was incredibly rich and moorish.
Without hesitation we leapt into our starters after ordering some wine. There’s a list with prices ranging from £6 and upwards for a glass, or anything up to £200 for a bottle. The Opheem wine list can be browsed thorough while you choose your starters. The summer menu is relatively small and not over complicated which I like to see. For starters I opted for the SAMUDRAPHENI Maharashtra (£11.90) which consists of octopus, tandoori spices, pickled mooli and citrus. As you would expect, the presentation of each course is nothing short of stunning and the octopus was genuinely the best I’ve tasted in Birmingham. All of the sweet and sour textures of the citrus combined with the tender meat was exceptional. I’d eat this again ten times over.
Josh asked for the NAASHTA Old delhi (£8.95) – a beautiful dish of spinach pattie, paneer, onion and fenugreek fritter, mushroom gilouti and chutneys. The glow of the pink sauce made his first dish stand out from mine and the paneer was really soft to cut through. The fritter had perfect crunch also and textures were perfect to dip into the chutneys. The other starter that caught my eye was the KEKDA Kerala of soft shell crab, caraway seed, raw mango, fermented rice batter. When I visit for the second time I’m ordering that.
Opheem Main Courses
The most exciting part of the experience was the mains. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted the LAAL MAANS Rajasthan – inspired by Aktar’s winning course on the Fword. The main alone came in at £22.90, but I think it was worth every single penny. The dish comes with Herdwick lamb loin, tongue beignet, Punjabi aubergine caviar, barley, smoked mathania chilli & bone marrow sauce. I ordered some Asparagus & Green Pea Pilau rice (£3.95) on the side as recommended by our waiter, along with some Garlic and Coriander Naan. (£3.50). The lamb was insane, and the meal as a whole was extraordinary. A fantastic balance of spices and flavours had been carefully thought through and it’s no surprise why it’s a winning course.
Josh ordered the HYDERABADI BIRYANI Hyderabad (£19.50) which consisted of Boer goat, basmati in yakhni, black cardamom, raitha. The whole biryani came served within a pot with a naan lid which I had never seen before. The amount of expertise, skill and craft which goes into each of these dishes is second to none. The goat came out first on the plate and you spoon out the mixture afterwards. I cannot describe how sexual that smell was; the aromas were tantalising and there’s no doubt Josh thoroughly enjoyed his meal.
Opheem Toilet Break
Now the bit you’ve all been waiting for… THE TOILETS! We had a little breather between finishing our main meals and ordering our dessert. I quickly nipped to the bathroom to inspect the surroundings, and you have to walk down the stairs onto the lower level to reach the bathrooms. I was intrigued to see what they were like and naturally, they were pristine, ooze charm and the walls are the same colour throughout which is rather soothing. Next to the ladies toilets is a glowing ‘O’ – the symbol of Opheem. I couldn’t resist whipping out my phone and taking a few shots of the toilets which I know you’re extremely grateful to see.
Back up to the top level after a short 5 minutes in the bathroom, we were handed the dessert menu. Now, let me just say that we all know Indian desserts aren’t always the most extravagant or tastiest. The starters and main courses are usually great, but the sweet puddings tend to be a let down. I was interested in trying one of Aktar’s desserts to finish and I can say now that I was pleasantly surprised by my choice.
My CHAI Bengal (£7.00) was a colourful parfait with roasted pineapple and coconut sorbet dish. It had delicate, sweet flavours and was tasty. I always seem to have a major sweet tooth after eating hearty meals. There are other options to try, but I think Josh was more interested to see how the FIRNI Bengal (£7.00) Bengali rice pudding would square up. With hints of Yorkshire rubarb and basil, the dessert didn’t appear as typical rice pudding, but more with a flan texture. I’m not sure Josh was 100% satisfied but I enjoyed mine regardless.
To finish off the meal, we ordered some coffees to sit back and relax with. During the evening we consumed three courses, plus extra amuse bouche and sides within 1 hour 30 which I think was expert timing. We were impressed with the dishes, the mains especially, and the service was great too but will improve as time goes on. The restaurant had only been open 5 weeks when visiting, and were told by management the team had gone through extensive training to get everything up to scratch. Overall, we had an exceptional meal and the bill came to £130 including service charge. This included three courses each, two rounds of drinks each and coffees. For £65 each I think the price was great and I look forward to trying the lunch time menu.
Opheem 48 Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JJ
Please note: I visited Opheem for a three course meal with drinks on my own accord. I paid for the meal and have written this review off my own back. Thanks once again to Opheem for the lovely evening.