A famous Michelin-starred chef has said a diner would not be welcome at his restaurant after leaving a critical review on TripAdvisor saying the venue was ‘unfriendly’.
Aktar Islam, who has been seen on Great British Menu, MasterChef and Saturday Kitchen, responded to a customer who was unhappy with what was on offer for his meal.
Customer was upset that Opheem restaurant ‘only offered chickpeas’ as a substitute for a beef dish on the £115 tasting menu, reports BirminghamLive.
The TripAdvisor reviewer – number 2956jd – said she was disappointed with the lack of alternatives on the day of the meal and tried to cancel her reservation but was unable to get her deposit back.
She wrote: ‘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 replied, “We will always do our best, but we cannot pull rabbits out of a hat…or in this case, lamb or chicken.”
The chef 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 what someone wants.
“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.
“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
“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.
He added: “The restaurant also said we were very expensive and as we said in our response, this is again incorrect when compared to another Michelin starred restaurant 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
“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 – became the first Indian restaurant to be selected as “Best Local Restaurant” by Gordon Ramsey on Channel 4’s The F Word.
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.
Aktar is now a judge on the show.
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 at £45 and £55.
Opheem’s review on TripAdvisor
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
Reviewed November 26, 2021
“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.”
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.”