I’ve been to Opheem now, blimey, I don’t really know. Over a dozen times in the restaurant for certain, maybe that number doubled in the bar area, drinking martinis and popping in for a couple of courses like the Prima Donna I am. I’ll take any excuse to go; girlfriends, fathers, best friends, other friends, internet friends, Gordon, journalist trips, and business trips. Maybe it’s more than the dozen. I’ve cried with emotion in there and fell to sleep at the table when I mixed neat alcohol and very strong painkillers. Sorry Jim, I’ll make it up to you in Walsall tomorrow. It’s always memorable at Opheem, even on the occasions when I don’t remember it.

This, visit number well-I-don’t-fucking-know, confirms more than ever that Opheem are gunning for that second star. They were always built for that; the lounge area and the huge dining room; the countless number of staff and chefs buzzing between tables. They are taking it all up a level. The snacks, too many to count, refined and clearly a level above. The green juice of cucumber, less palate cleanser and more palate alarm clock, spiked with chilli. The strawberry and sesame cookie, now less sweet and with a lingering warmth, before the bacon-like smoked eel mousse with fish roe. The two crackers; one with mustard and yogurt, the other with mango, both, I think, a piss-take of the poppadoms so ubiquitous with going for an Indian. Then the macaroon with raw beef and foie gras – a 3* snack in its own right – before the cured sea bass in a sauce that’s acidic and spicy. Still with me? Good, I’m on martini number two, a glass of champagne down and about to head into the restaurant.

In many ways the longer-term residents of the menu highlight the new ambition coming out of the kitchen. Both the sweetcorn with tandoori butter and cornet of corn ice cream, and the sheer brilliance of the now iconic aloo tuk lack the elegance of the two courses that sit in-between them. Firstly, asparagus and pea with korma sauce whose lactic, nutty notes work beautifully, then raw scallops with a tomato essence rassam that gently hums of curry leaf and could easily be in a level above their current one star rating. That’s not me suggesting they should lose the aloo tuk; if that bowl of spuds went there’d be a mutiny and I’d be at the front. The bread with the patè, here since day one, is also never going anywhere.

John Dory straight off the barbecue has a whiff of coals that only adds to the pulp of smoked aubergine underneath. On the side is courgette – also, I think, finished on the barbecue – with a soured fish curry sauce so perfectly judged it could only come from this kitchen. Then mutton saddle, meat pink with a thick layer of caramelised ivory fat, on a keema as good as any keema you’ll try. There’s a classic jus spiked with what I think is cumin. It’s probably the highlight of the meal. It’s almost certainly 2* standard.

There’s a pretty rhubarb dessert with some very nice dessert wine, followed by an apple somasa type thing with berries and more dessert wine. Some petit fours that I have boxed-up, another glass of red and a martini. I’m here for a business meeting and don’t see a bill, though I know from experience that the £125 for the tasting menu is a steal in this present day. Had I mentioned I’d been here before? Good. And long may those frequent visits last. Opheem is pretty much perfection.


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