Birmingham TV chef Aktar Islam has revealed where he is planning to open his new city centre restaurant.
Opheem is due to open in Summer Row in May on the site which used to be Mechu bar.
Aktar is the former chef director of Lasan Group in Birmingham and Opheem will be his first solo restaurant.
There will be 70 covers and the food is described as “progressive Indian cuisine”.
Aktar, aged 37, said the restaurant would take diners on an “intoxicating culinary journey”.
He said: “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.”
Akhtar said diners would be treated to “progressive gastronomy” which would showcase how Indian cuisine was developing and growing.
Bookings are already been taken for the restaurant, which will feature a 14-cover private dining room in addition to the main restaurant.
Diners can also munch on snacks and small plates in the bar.
Typical starters will include parai (Cornish mackerel, Goan fermented chilli and jaggeri, and Tokyo turnip) and samudrapheni (octopus, tandoori spices and pickled carrot).
Main courses will feature allepy (Cornish turbot, courgette, wilted greens, tempered Keralan coconut milk and raw mango) and Aktar’s own version of vindaloo (pork jowl, pickled vindaloo purée, star anise heritage carrots, roasted whey onion and confit garlic).
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).
Aktar said he was excited to be opening at a time when fine dining was booming in Birmingham.
“I am thrilled to be launching Opheem at such an exciting time in Birmingham’s culinary development,” he said.
“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.”
It is one of a number of restaurants opening in the city this spring.
These include Revolucion de Cuba in Temple Street, The Ivy in Temple Row, The Wilderness in Bennett’s Hill and NRI by Atul Kocchar in Mailbox.
For enquiries about booking at Opheem, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0121 201 3377.
Who is Aktar Islam?
1. Aktar was born in 1980 and brought up in Birmingham by Bangladeshi parents who came to Britain in the late 1970s. He’s the second eldest of five sons.
2. He followed in the family business. Although his father was an academic political scientist in Bangladesh, he opened an Indian restaurant in Solihull called The Indian Palace.
Islam began learning to cook at the age of seven and worked at his father’s restaurant Karma from 13. At 18 he was working full-time at an Italian restaurant, then at 20 he took over The Indian Palace and turned it into a profitable business.
He launched Lasan in 2002 at the age of just 22 and was head of an £8 million business with his partner Jabbar Khan.
3. Despite his father running restaurants, his mother is Aktar’s culinary inspiration
He says: “If there’s one person I had to give credit to for giving me a love of cooking, it would be my mother. I used to help her in the kitchen as a child.
“My mother’s always been very creative in her culinary skills with a very receptive view of food from around the subcontinent as opposed to just one region, and this has stayed with me my entire life.
“She is still my biggest critic and there will always be a battle between us as to who is the best cook.”
4. Appearing on The F Word with Gordon Ramsay in 2009 thrust Aktar into the spotlight and did wonders for Lasan.
They had to bring in extra staff just to answer the phone from diners wanting to book and there was soon a 12-week waiting list, while the website crashed several times from all the new traffic.
5. Aktar’s TV fame continued with Great British Menu in 2011. He won the Central region heat and his dish of sea bass with battered soft shell crab was chosen as the Fish Course in the final People’s Banquet.
Aktar has also met the Queen, when he was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for his contribution to the British hospitality industry.
6 . He may be praised for his top-notch layers of spices and flavours, but he admits he loves a good old Sunday roast – and a bacon, sausage and egg sandwich.
7. Aktar has several celebrity fans. Among those enjoying his cooking at Lasan are Gary Barlow, who called it “the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten”, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, Flavia Cacace and Michael Buble, who even kissed him.
The pair have been firm friends since the singer filmed a cooking lesson at Lasan.
Five years on, Aktar was sitting in the front row of a Buble gig at the Barclaycard Arena in 2014 when the star leapt off stage and planted a smacker on his cheek.
8. Aktar left Lasan earlier this year to launch his solo restaurant in Summer Row.