Michelin star chef’s cutting response to restaurant who complained he didn’t want beef on £115 tasting menu


Big UK menu star Aktar Islam has furiously condemned a TripAdvisor reviewer who attacked her restaurant for being ‘unfriendly to customers’ – and says she won’t be allowed back.

The star chef who has also appeared on MasterChef and Saturday Kitchen, was furious when the restaurant at his Opheem restaurant in Summer Row claimed he was only being offered ‘chickpeas’ as a substitute to replace a beef dish on the £115 tasting menu.

The TripAdvisor reviewer – under the screen name 2956jd – wrote in November that she was disappointed with the restaurant’s lack of alternatives on the day of the meal. She also tried to cancel, but said they refused to refund her deposit.

Read more:‘It’s not enough to have your name above the door’ – the problem of celebrity restaurants in Birmingham

She said: ‘When booking we made it clear we had dietary restrictions but luckily on the day we called them we were told they couldn’t make the main course ‘No Beef’ and replace it with chickpeas. We couldn’t believe it.”

Aktar Islam hit back on TripAdvisor, telling the restaurant, “We will always do our best, but we can’t pull rabbits out of a hat…or in this case, lamb or chicken.”

The chef who appears on Great British Menu tonight as a judge told BirminghamLive: “My restaurant is not an episode of Ready Steady Cook. My team can’t just knock something down. In most fine dining restaurants , we can’t just cook whatever someone wants.

Aktar Islam’s new restaurant ‘Opheem’ has opened on Summer Row

“On this occasion the review told us she couldn’t eat beef on the reservation – and we have done our best to accommodate an alternative which we are already serving. It is incorrect to say we have her said we would give her chickpeas instead as we don’t serve chickpeas.

“My manager offered a dish from our vegetarian menu – a Chettinad dish with eggplant. The lady unfortunately insisted that we have ‘better’ alternatives/menu options like chicken or lamb.

A dish from Indian gourmet restaurant Opheem
A dish from Indian gourmet restaurant Opheem

“My team had the equivalent of a few hours on the phone the previous days talking to this restaurant – they all tried to explain our menu and why we don’t offer a wide variety.

“We cannot tailor a menu to meet the needs of a dinner party. No restaurant can do that. We focus on what we can actually offer at the time.

“Gourmet restaurants have carefully curated and created tasting menus. We try to meet dietary needs as much as possible by offering the best possible alternative.

Aktar appears as mentor and judge on Great British Menu 2022
Aktar appears as mentor and judge on Great British Menu 2022

“In the evening I even ran to my other restaurant Pulperia in Brindleyplace, to get some monkfish and make an alternative dish – but the restaurant was still not happy.”

Aktar opened his restaurant Opheem in 2018, and it won a Michelin star a year later with inspectors hailing Aktar’s “progressive Indian cuisine” and how his food blends “traditional techniques with a modern perspective”.

Aktar won the Great British Menu 2012 Central Heat in 2012. Pictured with show mentor and fellow chef Brummie Glynn Purnell
Aktar won the Great British Menu 2011 Central Heat in 2012. Pictured with show mentor and fellow chef Brummie Glynn Purnell

He added: ‘The restaurant also said we were very expensive and as we said in our response this is again incorrect when compared to other Michelin starred restaurants in town,

“And there are restaurants in Birmingham that don’t have a Michelin star but charge a lot more than Opheem for their tasting menus.

“Also, what I said in the reply is something she forgot to mention in her review – that she proceeded to verbally insult me ​​by questioning my credentials for cooking food She had a problem with me not being Indian.

The negative review posted on TripAdvisor
The negative review posted on TripAdvisor

“I found that incredibly rude. She was about to get fired but thought I wouldn’t embarrass her in front of her family.

“Some people’s stupidity and ignorance is shocking. Although I didn’t kick her out, she will no longer be welcome in my restaurant.”

Aktar rose to fame when he and his former workplace – Lasan in the Jewelery Quarter, became the first Indian restaurant to be selected as “Best Local Restaurant” by Gordon Ramsey on Channel 4’s The F Word.

Ramsay has defended the Aston-born chef, calling his cooking methods “genius”.

He went on to win the fish course competition in the 2011 final of BBC Two’s Great British Menu show with his battered soft-shell crab bass.

After another appearance in 2015, Aktar makes a triumphant return to the series as a mentor and veteran judge for the Central Region. In the episode, which airs tonight, Tuesday February 1 at 8pm on BBC2, the Aston-born chef stars alongside host Andi Oliver. The duo will mentor and sample dishes from some of the region’s top chefs before handing over to the judges – two-star Michelin chef Tom Kerridge, restaurateur Nisha Katona and comedian Ed Gamble.

Opheem's response on Trip Advisor from Aktar and Managing Director Andrew Frost
Opheem’s response on Trip Advisor from Aktar and Managing Director Andrew Frost

Opheem offers a 10 course tasting menu priced at £115, a five course tasting menu priced at £95 as well as a two and three course lunch menu priced at £45 and £55.

This is the latest restaurant in Birmingham to be involved in a TripAdvisor row.

Earlier this month, we reported how a user of the review site complained that her night out at the upmarket Gaucho restaurant was “spoiled” because there was a dog allowed in the venue. The restaurant manager responded by saying that Gaucho is a “dog-friendly chain”.

Opheem’s review on TripAdvisor

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam


Reviewed November 26, 2021

Customer unfriendly

“Very well rated restaurant with a Michelin star, quite expensive. So I was SURPRISED by the title of my review. When booking we clearly stated that we had a dietary restriction, but luckily the day we got them called and we were told they can’t take the main course “No Beef” and will replace it with chickpeas We couldn’t believe it, normally a restaurant of this stature will offer other options , but they refused and also pointed out that if we cancel we will be charged full money.
I’ve never had such an experience, really. Went there reluctantly as it was too much money to waste. Common sense prevailed and we were offered a main course of fish. feel quite expensive. I hope the property will take this feedback in a positive light to help improve guest relations.”

Opheem’s response

Aktar Islam's new restaurant 'Opheem' has opened on Summer Row
Aktar Islam’s ‘Opheem’ restaurant on Summer Row,

Responded on November 29, 2021

“I would like to take this opportunity to respond to your comments that the restaurant is quite expensive. It may surprise you that we are actually one of the best Michelin starred restaurants in the city and in the whole country, In fact, Birmingham has restaurants that have not been awarded a star and charge more for a tasting menu, so hopefully that puts your comments into perspective. We pride ourselves on offering excellent value for money besides a wonderful experience.

“Now to your comments about us not catering to your dietary requirements, you must first understand as a restaurant that offers 2 tasting menus; when we have guests who cannot eat a particular dish on one tasting menu, we offer the alternative of our other tasting menu, I’m sorry you thought we were being unreasonable because we couldn’t just cook whatever you wanted to eat that night, I understand you wanted to lamb or chicken Restaurants have menus and that’s what they order and what they have to work with.

“You will find that this is the case with all the Michelin starred restaurants that offer a tasting menu and which are not unique to us. Fortunately, we have another restaurant nearby from which we were able to stock up on monkfish in order to try to accommodate your But understand that the restaurant team went out of their way to accommodate you, to no avail it seems.

“I will also take this opportunity to ask you to also consider your future conduct and leave your biases at home in the future, questioning the Chief’s Brummie roots and digging into his lineage and into him. asking to justify why he cooks Indian food is frankly unacceptable and gross. I highly doubt you would ask Marco/Gordon and others why they cook dishes based on classic French cuisine.

“Food is universal and we believe no one should be asked what he is passionate about, Aktar has invested the last 30 years in understanding Indian culture and cuisine despite not being Indian and Birmingham n “does not stop chefs from India and all over the world contacting him for advice, recipes and development assistance. We and the UK hospitality community are extremely proud that he is the first British-born chef to earning a Michelin star for his very personal portrayal of Indian flavors.

“We hope you take these comments positively and understand that while we want to please everyone and will always do our best, we can’t pull bunnies out of a hat…or in this case, the lamb or chicken.”

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