I think I am getting the hang of this fine dining thing… I started with Adams moved on to 670 Grams and now for one of the most distinctive tasting menus in Brum (or so I thought) – The Wilderness. Located in the Jewellery Quarter, hidden away down a dark alley, you’ll wonder if you are in the right place. Entering the restaurant is like walking into Voldemort’s lair – if Voldemort liked AC/DC that is. Subtly lit, black on black and moody as fuck, I like it.
Staff are friendly enough and know what we want straight away – to be seated before time and handed the drinks menu. Good start. We didn’t go for the wine pairing, probably not the way to do it but as a 5 ft 1 lightweight who gets loud off a WKD, it’s certainly for the best. I went for the Venetian Kiss featuring salt baked peach, raspberry and elderflower. So good I ordered two more. I went for the £110 8-course dinner menu and within 10 minutes the first dishes arrived.
A plate appears with three ‘snacks’; Shrimp Doughnut, Celeriac tart – Hazelnut, and A5 Wagyu – Nori – Comte. They all hit the spot, especially the shrimp doughnut, I could order about 50 of those to go.
The fourth dish is served, and it was my favourite. The Mackerel is absolutely beautiful and was swimming in a delicious consommé that I ended up dribbling down my front. I was like a cat with a saucer of milk, I couldn’t stop lapping it up.
The fifth dish was the Cod and Iberico, it was just perfect, the way my knife sliced into the cod and it just fell apart, it still sends shivers down my spine!
Although a rather successful start, I was somewhat confused. I’ll be honest, The Wilderness is known for its “fuck it” reputation. I knew there was an edge, but I was struggling to find it in the food. But, it was early days…
The next dish was The Carrot 2022 which started to turn the night around for me. I know, how could a carrot do that?! Well my dears, this was so much more than your bog standard chantenay. Braised carrots with nitro frozen feta crumbs in fact. The frozen feta crumbs are a bit like marmite really, you love them or hate them. I really enjoyed the combination and thought it was a match made in heaven. Another dish where I couldn’t get enough of the sauce, I should of brought a bloody bib.
Next up was Barbaray Duck in Blood Orange. Now I am not a fan of duck so this dish didn’t do anything for me and I feel it would be unfair to review it. I’ll let you in on one thing, it’s cooked well. That’s all I can say. Alex informed me he could of changed the duck to something more to my liking, so my bad.
Many have seen or heard of this next dish – The Wilderness’ signature course Ch-Ch-Changes comes in the form of a Ba-Ba-BANANA. I’ve always been curious about this one and the man himself, Alex Claridge, came over to explain it. “Like banoffee pie but in a banana”. Right okay, the thing is…I hate banana. So I wasn’t looking forward to it to be honest but it was nice to finally speak to Alex, He seemed authentic and obviously passionate about what he does. When you are so passionate about something you do of course get defensive if someone says one bad word, I get it. “Eat it however you want” he says.
I decided to scoop it up in my hands but didn’t realise how much of a slippery fucker it was, My fellow diner was having a right laugh watching and I must have looked like I belonged in a zoo shrieking while the banana danced around my hands. When I finally caught the little bugger, it was surprisingly delicious. A super cool and imaginative dish and I wanted more of the same, but sadly didn’t get it.
The next plate wasn’t for me. Rhubarb with Mascarpone and Buckwheat was my least favourite dish. Firstly, it was freezing, I mean it numbed my teeth as soon as I bit into it, and it’s bloody tricky to eat as the mascarpone is proper hard, Something just wasn’t right. The dish didn’t do anything, and I just felt the flavours didn’t compliment each other.
The last course was Hot Lips. Perfectly plump, blood red and in good proportion. I was not expecting to yell “bloody hell, it’s like a Victoria Sponge!” I felt I needed a brew with it, so I ordered one. A sweet and refreshing end to a rather tasty but confusing meal.
Would I recommend The Wilderness? That is the million-dollar question. I feel like after a pretty mad year of trying out some of Birmingham’s best tasting menus, I’m gutted to say it but this was ever so slightly disappointing. I just wanted something different to the typical dishes you would find in modern, British fine-dining restaurants and I was looking for that edge that I originally thought the Wilderness would give me. Thats not to say I wouldn’t visit The Wilderness again, I will be visiting again but maybe when theres a new menu and hopefully next time it will be more to my liking. There were a few standout dishes but with the price you pay surely every dish should make you say ‘fuck that’s good!’ What I did like was the vibe in there, it’s laid back, so laid back I wore Adidas sweat pants and felt right at home. Service is on point and the rock and roll soundtrack is a nice accompaniment. However, it’s over-shadowed by other relaxed, fine-dining spots in the city that deliver that wow factor for the same price or cheaper. The quality of the ingredients is obvious, as is Alex’s talents as a chef, but I think a few will leave thinking they could of got more for their money elsewhere.