3-4 Dakota Buildings
James Street, St Paul’s Square
Birmingham, B3 1SD
Tel. 0121 212 3664
Food type: Modern Indian
The morning after my friends wedding, I was very keen to make an early move and drive back down South. My fiancee on the other hand was very keen to have some lunch in Birmingham before heading home. In particular she wanted to have some curry. With nothing planned, I quickly searched a couple of restaurants to see which were opened for Sunday lunch and was pleasantly surprised that Aktar Islam’s restaurant was. I quickly booked a table for the two of us before quickly packing up and checking out from our hotel.
I don’t think Aktar needs any more introduction given that he has been a regular feature on British television – first on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word and then on BBC’s Great British Menu where he got his fish course to the final Banquet. His restaurant proudly displays these achievement along with pictures of a few celebrities such as a certain Gary Barlow who have visited. Yet, the one accolade which has eluded his restaurant so far is a Michelin Star which is unsurprising given Michelin’s inconsistent rating of Indian restaurants.
The menu is divided into your traditional starters, mains and desserts which you will happily associated with a French restaurant. As this was a last-minute decision to dine here, I had not done any research as to what the concept of the restaurant is like – whether the main courses come complete with all the trimmings or whether this was like a curry house where you would need to get some bread and/or rice to go with your curry. More confusingly, there are also a few traditional curries such as the ubiquitous chicken tikka masala listed on the menu. Our server did not shed more light into this either so we ended up ordering a lot more food than we could physically consume.
A few dishes on the menu come proudly labelled with their heritage, having been featured either on the F-Word or GBM. Take my starter of Crispy Soft shell crab which was featured as part of Aktar’s winning fish course on Great British Menu. The crab is coated with a mildly spiced batter and served with a raw mango chutney which gives a lovely acidity to the dish. For me what it lacked in intense heat, it more than made up for in balanced, delicate spicing which did not overpower the delicate crab. This was a complex dish with a lot of small elements but the flavours were harmonious.
My initial choice of beef was unavailable and my server recommended that I try their duck with cabbage instead. The sourcing of the produce was good, the duck coming from Creedy Carver (who also supply Purnell’s) and was cooked a beautiful pink. It sat on top of a bed of cabbage spiked with cumin and coriander seeds. Think of it as the Asian version of choucroute. What tied the dish all together was the curry sauce served on the side in a little sauce pan with mild, yet complex spicing.
To finish, I tried Lasan’s version of a carrot cake. A small slice of delicate sponge is accompanied by a carrot foam and finished off with some berries and coconut sorbet. If you are used to eating dense versions of carrot cakes, then the version here is light enough to be a fitting end to a very rich and heavy meal, especially if you make the mistake like us of ordering too many side dishes.
We were both pleasantly surprised by the standard of cooking here at Lasan. I found the spicing of food here mild (probably to cater to the British crowd) but still interesting. Perhaps if I had given the secret handshake they would have happily dialled the heat up. The pricing here is pretty reasonable if you are used to paying London prices although this may be very expensive for the locals. This was probably why the restaurant was very quiet during Sunday lunch with only 2 other tables taken. Nevertheless, we would gladly return to try the other dishes on offer if we were visiting Birmingham in the future.