Aktar Islam’s swanky new gaffe is a glamorous affair with some serious interiors game.
From the outside the restaurant looks gargantuan, but split into two distinct sections – cosy bar area with squishy sofas and a more formal dining room – the clever design works. It’s been all-hands-on-deck to get here, in fact the ‘maitre d’ has lost a stone merely working with Aktar.
A freshly-launched summer lunch menu caught our eye and as Brum feels hotter than the Balearics it seemed apt. For those of you who avoid Indian food at lunchtime, a) what’s wrong with you? and b) this isn’t your average Indian nosh. If you’re imagining a huge raging bowl of Balti with a naan the size of a steering wheel this isn’t for you. This is refined, precise and delicate with realistic starry Michelin ambitions.
From the perfectly crisp cone filled with cured trout topped with pea puree of the amuse bouche to a stunning vanilla dessert that tasted every bit as beautiful as it looked, we were impressed.
The lunch menu’s succinct with three starter options, three main and two desserts. There’s an extra palate cleanser between starter and mains which was dreamy – tamarind sorbet, thinly sliced pickled cucumber and a spicy crumb.
Mutton patties (Shaami) served with a green chutney and tomato had the perfect amount of spice and heat. Croquette shaped spinach-y morsels of loveliness (Palak Tikki) with refreshing grated carrot and onion and a punchy sauce/puree was just gorgeous. Thangri masala which is basically tandoori chicken but not as you know it was superb. Using thighs rather than breast meat meant that while the chicken had an intense smoky charred flavour, the inside stayed beautifully moist.
We had a slight hiccup with Meen which was described on the menu as plaice, greens and coconut milk. Plaice was replaced by trout without explanation. The sauce was brilliant and the trout was good, but it seemed a bit odd not to address the fact it was different and I suspect white fish would have worked better.
Indian desserts get a bad rep and we’ve been let down in the past. Not this time. Both desserts were absolutely stunning. Amda was an intense rhubarb sorbet with a fragrant spiced custard that so light it was practically a foam. Lovely. Kaddu looked like a work of art and tasted every bit as good. Not entirely sure what all the flavours were other than vanilla and pumpkin seed, so you’ll have to trust us, it was a winner.
There’s no denying at £19.95 for two courses and £22.95 for three, the lunch menu is unbelievable value for such accomplished cooking. It’s whet our appetite for sure and we’ll be heading back for dinner, which looks equally intriguing, pronto.