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Lasan Birmingham - Winner of F Word

Lasan Birmingham  Voted ‘Britains Best Local Restaurant’ by their customers and judged by Gordon Ramsey (And yours Truly) at the Channel 4 Finals.

We caught up with Executive chef Aktar Islam on the day of the finals for a meal and an Exclusive interview. Well done Lasan!

Aktar had created an exclusive tasting menu selection of his favourite dishes for us to try while we chatted “I try and source influences from all over India – I would normally be there myself now, I love travelling around the Country trying different dishes and ingredients, to bring them home and experiment  with their flavours and textures, however, the ‘F’ Word has meant that trip is on hold this year. All our ingredients are authentic – sourcing meats from the neighbouring counties of Staffordshire for beef, Shropshire for Chicken, as well as Worcestershire, and further afield we have some fantastic ingredients from Warwickshire and the East Midlands, however, I feel that you cannot have an authentic restaurant without bringing the core ingredients from the country of original. I know if I am serving Cashmere herbs, or Goan style dishes or a true Punjabi dish, that the ingredients, and the flavours, are truly from that area – not just that they say so on the packet! This is something very important to me to create the full Lasan experience”

Our first dish was a selection of starters – Aloo Brie Tikki Potato balls flavoured with ginger and cashew nuts, stuffed with brie, served with tamarind sauce, Mahi Machli – Salmon marinated in a tomato and roasted red pepper puree with coriander, lime juice, served with salad and coriander sauce, Murch Tikka Salas – Tandoori chicken strips with baay leaves, onions, tomato, cucumber and chick peas croutons dressed with coriander oil and crushed peppercorns and a Sarson Ka Jhinga – succulent Tandoori King Prawns served with baby leaves, dressed in fresh grape fruit vinaigrette.

What Aktar is good at is  not only bringing the best  of his ingredients by treating them with respect, but pushing the boundaries, and creating an overall new flavour from the components of the dish, by pushing the boundaries mixed with his own deep knowledge and passion “Some people say I am arrogant, but when I get in my domain of the kitchen, I am so focused on the ingredients, and conscious to treat them with respect that my vision is channelled at just that, so I expect the best from everyone around me – I learnt a great deal from my experience with Chef Gordon [Ramsey]on the F Word and will carry my passion, whilst perhaps dampening my exterior persona a little, but not too much” he smiles.

The flavours of the selection were exemplary – I was also struck by the impact of the colour on the plate “we do not use any colourants or artificial ingredients, what you do see are the natural oils, marinades, pastes and fresh herbs that we use, which if treated with the respect you mention, will keep their colour – They should carry through to the flavours of each ingredient lifting from the food” And it did. The selection was the perfect combination – with the roasted peppers lifting the salmon and the grapefruit vinaigrette cutting through the succulent prawns were a perfect dish to end on.

All too often when a restaurant is blessed by such a passionate and knowledgeable Executive chef, the rest of the team can let it down, as was all too clearly shown on recent finals of the F word when the Greek Restaurant lost their place in the finals against the accomplished Pheasant, purely through poor service, as did many others, however the front of house team were almost as informed as Akbar on the ingredients, and flavours.

The main selection of Allepy Fish curry, Balchao King Prawns, Dum Ki Murgh an d Mirch Baingan Ka Sala was an equal journey of colour and flavours “Many people say I should do the ‘main-stream’ things, and serve in a traditional Balti dish, or give selections like this on canteen plates, but this is what we do. We like to keep the surrounds simple, and let the ingredients speak for themselves – we do not like fads, or begging to every whim – there are lots of very good restaurants in the region, if people want a Balti, then go to one of the many very good restaurants offering this – we do food from India, cooked with passion, and authentic ingredients.”

Lasan Selection

Lasan Selection

And true they do – The Fish curry was the favourite of my guest, each served in an individual white square dish, the flavour lifted the presentation – Sea Bass being cooked perfectly – crisp skin, and rich velvety white flesh not overpowered but complemented by the mustard seeds which we saw in the F Word Finals dish, and which was soured with raw mango and tamerind which meant the flavour of the dish truly lingered. The King Prawn was my favourite served Goan Style flavoured with coriander seeds dry slow roast chillies and lifted by the flavour of malt vinegar which worked perfectly with the coconut milk.

Dum Ki Murgh is a delicately spiced poussin and was suitably braised in a mild caremalised onion and yoghurt curry, accompanied by sweet cashew nuts, and an almost satay flavour to it – All three dishes were balanced by the Baby aubergine, which were simmered in spicy poppy seeds cashew nuts and a tomato curry and fresh green chillies “ we pride ourselves in creating not only balanced dishes, but also a balanced selection in our tasting menu – we change our menu four times a year, and work with the Indian seasons, where they actually enjoy 6 seasons, so the tasting menu and specials will incorporate these – we have just taken delivery of an excellent shoulder of beef which I will be slow cooking for over four hours to make it perfectly tender, then will hopefully be in this weekend if we are not too busy”

While we were chatting and eating, the phone never stopped ringing with those keen regulars as well as many from all over the country who were booking Lasan on the strength of Aktar’s passions for food. I he going to be inundated after tonight’s deserved result “We aim to continue just as we are, so those guests who do mange to book and enjoy our cuisine will be able to experience the true Lasan, without compromise.”

The tasting menu is £39.95 per head, and includes desserts which we unfortunately were unable to stay for, so we have been invited back to enjoy the full experience at our leisure, and we will take you with us! Well Done Lasan and thank you Aktar and Jabbar – Another great Birmingham Restaurant


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Lasan Restaurant, 3-4 Dakota Buildings | James Street | St Paul’s Square | BIRMINGHAM B3 1SD | TEL: 0121 212 3664 | 0121 247 8570

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