"I found this to be unbelievably rude."
Michelin-star chef Aktar Islam has condemned a customer who complained that she did not want beef on the £115 tasting menu and later claimed she was only offered chickpeas as a substitute.
The Great British Menu judge has now said that the TripAdvisor reviewer will not be allowed back at his Opheem restaurant.
In November 2021, the TripAdvisor reviewer said she was disappointed by the lack of alternatives offered by the Birmingham restaurant on the day of the meal.
The customer also said she tried to cancel but claimed they refused to refund her deposit.
She said: “At booking, we made clear we had dietary restriction, however luckily on the day we happened to call them, and we were told they cant cater for Main Course “No beef” and will substitute it with chickpeas. We could not believe it.”
The chef responded to the reviewer, saying “we will always try our best, but we cannot pull rabbits out of a hat… or in this case lamb or chicken”.
Aktar later said: “My restaurant is not an episode of Ready Steady Cook. My team can’t just knock something up.
“In most fine dining restaurants, we can’t just rustle up whatever someone wants.
“On this occasion, the reviewer did tell us she could not eat beef on the booking – and we did our best to accommodate with an alternative that we already serve.
“It is incorrect to say we said we’d give her chickpeas instead as we don’t serve chickpeas.
“My manager offered a dish from our vegetarian menu – a Chettinad dish with aubergine.
“The lady was sadly insistent that we should have ‘better’ alternatives/menu options like chicken or lamb.
“My team had the equivalent of a couple of hours of phone time on the days previously speaking to this diner – they all had tried to explain our menu and why we don’t offer a huge variety.
“We cannot offer a bespoke menu to cater for a diner’s needs. No restaurant can do that. We focus on what we can actually offer at that time.
“Fine dining restaurants have carefully curated and created set tasting menus.
“We do try to cater to dietary needs as much as possible by offering the best alternative we can.”
“On the night I even ran to my other restaurant Pulperia in Brindleyplace, to get some monkfish and put together an alternative dish – but the diner still wasn’t satisfied.”
Opheem opened in 2018 and just a year later, it won a Michelin star.
Aktar Islam continued: “The diner also said we are very expensive and as we said in our response this again is incorrect if compared to other Michelin starred restaurants in the city,
“And there are restaurants in Birmingham that do not have a Michelin star but charge a lot more than Opheem for their tasting menus.
“Also, what I said in the response is something she forgot to mention in her criticism – that she took to verbally abusing me questioning my credentials for cooking Indian food. She had a problem with me not being Indian.
“I found this to be unbelievably rude. She was close to getting thrown out but thought I wouldn’t embarrass her in front of her family.
“The stupidity and ignorance some people have is shocking.
“Although I didn’t chuck her out she will not be welcomed into my restaurant again. “