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Lasan Birmingham ~ F Word Finalist

Head Aktar & 2nd Chef Aysan with Gordon

Head Aktar & 2nd Chef Aysan with Gordon

Lasan Birmingham ~ Winners of  The ‘F’ Word Final with Gordon Ramsey?

See if the team at top Midlands Asian restaurant ‘Lasan’ win this Thursday night on Channel 4 The F Word with Gordon Ramsey in his search for Britain’s Best Local Restaurant, as voted for my James Day editor of Eat-the-midlands.co.uk when he was invited to attend the finals at vote for our region.

Read the Channel 4  interview with Lasan’s head chef, Aktar Islam

How did you feel when you found out that you made it into the F Word?

It’s an amazing feeling because we know how intensive the process is – from nomination to obviously making it to the final two – and the fact that it started off with 10,000 nominations and to end up as the final two for the Indian sector is an absolutely amazing feeling. But, after it was announced, that’s when the nerves kicked in – God, we’ve done it!

James Day Editor of eat-the-midlands.co.uk judging the 'F' Word Finals
James Day Editor of eat-the-midlands.co.uk judging the ‘F’ Word Finals

Does excitement turn to nerves quite quickly?

Yeah, of course, once it sinks in. Initially, obviously, jumping round and thinking it’s absolutely fantastic but on this scale… national television, such a popular television programme as well; so millions of people are going to watch so it just kicks in. But we’re very confident in our business, we’re very confident in the way we do what we do so we’ll put a good show on.

Why do you think your restaurant was nominated?

We offer our diners, and diners from Birmingham, an alternative to your traditional fare when it comes to Indian food – so we give them an alternative to your masalas and your baltis. We’re known for educating our diners and the experience that we give for people who choose to dine at our restaurant.

Because it’s at the high end isn’t it?

We try not to say high end. We’re not high end. What we do is we just give good quality, honest food and it’s food we can say is truly authentic when it comes to Indian so all the cooking practices are observed down to the ingredients that we put in – to make sure it’s as authentic as possible. The idea is that whatever is on our menu, in general, you won’t find at any other Indian restaurant.

Who’s inspired you to cook?

I think the main inspiration for cooking is my belief in Indian food and my desire to try and represent it in its true light and how glorious Indian food can be. I think that’s what really pushed me – the fact that going to restaurants and having restaurants in the family which were, in the past, very mainstream – the understanding and the realisation that what they serve there is not really Indian food. It’s Indian food for the British market, which is fair enough – but it’s not what I regard as true authentic Indian food. Our diners are always saying, even those that are friends, ‘Why don’t you make something a little more authentic?’ and it’s the understanding that, ‘Well, diners are asking for it so why don’t we do it?’.

How do you feel about cooking for Gordon Ramsay?

I’m looking forward to it because guys like ourselves don’t get to cook with Gordon Ramsay every day! It was fantastic when he turned up at the restaurant the other day – we knew we were going to get a judge but no-one told us it would be Gordon Ramsay so that was a bit cheeky! But today I’m looking forward to it.

What would winning mean? How would that compare to other awards?

Every time we win an award it is an amazing experience – it’s confirmation of what we’ve been doing for so many years, the fruits of our hard labour. But winning… that would top everything. Without disrespecting anyone who has been kind enough to award us in the past, this would probably be the one we hold in the highest regard. At the moment it’s more important to me than winning a Michelin star. We always considered winning, or pushing for, a Michelin star, but we’ve never really put so much emphasis on it. But winning this award… for the last few weeks it’s just been the only thing on my mind, to be honest.

Tell us a bit about your main course today and where that came from…

The dish itself is pan-fried fillet of bass, which is served with sautéed spinach and scented with garlic, and then that is served with new potatoes which have been simmering in a Bengal tomato fish broth. Now that, in its entirety, is actually a peasant dish. It’s something that’s eaten across the backwaters in West Bengal and that’s what we do at the restaurant – we take cultural delicacies. A lot of it is just peasant food but what we do is bring it in, we deconstruct it and we accentuate the most playful, bold parts of that particular dish, do away with the unhealthy element or the parts that are an acquired taste and we bring it to our diners.

Introducing Lasan, one of the Indian restaurants competing in Gordon’s F Word search for Britain’s Best Local Restaurant

About Lasan

- Lasan (which means garlic) opened in 2002 and is owned by two entrepreneurial, Asian young professionals, Jabbar and Aktar (head chef).

- It was the first Indian restaurant in Birmingham that didn’t serve Balti (i.e. it broke the mould for Birmingham Indian restaurants).

- Head chef, Aktar, wants to be the Gordon of Indian food and wants Indian food to get the recognition it deserves.

- Lasan wants to push Indian food and make it sexy again – Atkar is confident he could do it justice. “It’s a world class cuisine and it deserves to be understood how complex and delicate Indian food can be.”

- Lasan’s main course is pan fried fillet of sea bass on wilted spinach with new potatoes and Bengali fish broth and rice.

About head chef/owner – Aktar Islam (29)

- Aktar’s parents are from Bangladesh but he was born in Birmingham in 1980.

- Food has always been his life – at 13 years old Aktar’s first job was working in his father’s restaurant, Karma.

- Whilst at college Aktar worked for Shimlapinks, Birmingham’s first upmarket Indian restaurant and he continued to work at various restaurants before opening Lasan when he was 22.

- Aktar is head chef and director at Lasan – he sources produce, develops new recipes and does stints in the kitchen. “Just like Gordon Ramsay, I’m an entrepreneur.”

- When he first met Gordon they clashed as Gordon criticised his presentation and Aktar very staunchly defended it. But he still thinks his mother is a sterner critic than Gordon Ramsay!

About second chef – Aysan Shaikh (39)

- Aysan was born in Calcutta and came to Lasan straight from India – he saw the job advertised on the internet, had a phone interview and then moved to the UK (paid for his own flight).

- He first got his love of food from his mother’s cooking; she used to teach him as he was growing up.

- For Aysan the secret of Indian cooking is to ‘take his time’.

- He is a great fan of Gordon Ramsay and watches him every week!

James Day Editor of eat-the-midlands.co.uk judging the 'F' Word Finals

James Day Editor of eat-the-midlands.co.uk judging the 'F' Word Finals

Posted by Channel 4 The F Word ~ See if Lasan Wins the Final of the F Word Thursday 7th January at 9pm ~ And spot James Day Editor of eat-the-midlands.co.uk expressing his views on the finalists.

More from the F Word
Find all Gordon’s recipes

Visit Lasan’s Website HERE

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