Visit: 25 August 2023, lunch for two
Award: Michelin Guide Recommended, 3 AA Rosettes
The Wilderness is a Michelin Guide Recommended, 3 AA Rosettes restaurant located in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. It has collected a number of impressive ratings, including Good Food Guide 20 Most Exciting Restaurants 2022, SquareMeal Top 100 Restaurants 2023, and Harden’s Guide Top 100 Restaurants 2023.
The chef patron is Alex Claridge who first opened the restaurant on Dudley Street in Spring 2016 and then moved to the Jewellery Quarter in Spring 2018. I recommend reading his blogs that are available via the restaurant web site.
They offered two menus priced at £95 or £125, and could cater for vegetarian, pescatarian and gluten-free diners. The £95 menu was 6 courses and an optional Wagyu course, while the £125 menu included all the courses from the £95 choice plus 5 additional courses. The Wilderness serves “provocative, playful tasting menus in a restored factory, set to the soundtrack of rock, punk and heavy metal”.
Wine flights were available, or we could order glasses and bottles of wine from the full wine list. There was a range of different wine flights, the basic selection (£65 or £95 of either 4 or 6 glasses, depending on the menu chosen), a Super Wine Flight (£175 or £275 depending on menu selection), a Mixed Flight (£55 or £80) of paired cocktails, sake, and wine, and a 0%ABV flight. The full wine list was extensive and very accessible, with clear descriptions of each of the wines available.
We started with three snacks. The first was a take on mussel mariniere, which was a mussel mayonnaise encased in a potato cannoli shell, topped off with chives. Next, the “Dominos” pizza snack was a sourdough flat bread topped with chorizo pesto, a camembert custard, nduja marinara, and topped with Parmesan cheese. Finally, barbecued asparagus, was served with asparagus puree, asparagus broth, olive oil, and topped with mint and elderflower cream. These snacks were all very innovative and tasty. They are part of the larger (£125), so you won’t get to try them if you choose the shorter (£95) menu option.
The bread course was a Parker House roll with seaweed and toasted yeast butter.
Next was lightly poached trout on a brown crab custard, ponzu gel, koji fermented rice mayonnaise, fresh cucumber, and an assortment of cress including burgundy oxalis and bronze fennel, with a home-made kombucha made with cucumbers, that is slightly carbonated due to the fermentation, poured over. Great innovation and very tasty!
The “Carrot 2023” course was a brioche goats cheese bread and butter pudding, with barbecued carrots on top, nasturtium puree with pesto, carrot caramel and carrot puree, and with a yuzu spume served in a paper cup. One of the best carrot dishes I have ever had.
A fish course of barbecued halibut was served with a Vichyssoise puree, nettle sauce, barbecued leeks, vinegar and scraps like you would have from a fish and chip shop. Vichyssoise is a thick soup made from leeks, potatoes, chicken stock, and cream, usually served chilled. The fish was precisely cooked, the sauce had great flavour, and the scraps were a very welcome addition.
An optional course of barbecued A5 Wagyu ribeye was served with a kampot pepper broth, and egg yolk puree (optional supplement £28). The kampot pepper is a cultivar of black pepper grown and produced in Cambodia. The kampot broth was light but with deep peppery flavour that was not too spicy hot. All the courses were very good today, but this was my favourite, and definitely worth paying the supplement.
The main course was lamb saddle stuffed with a lamb mousseline and sweet breads, lamb crackling on top with girolle mushrooms, barbecued asparagus, and a lamb broth infused with wild garlic. This was great lamb with a very good stuffing.
The pre-dessert was “The Banana”, a faux banana with a white chocolate shell encasing coffee cremeux, a mascarpone cremeux, and a sour coffee caramel cremeux. Although it initially looked like the banana dessert at Upstairs Restaurant in Lichfield, the combination of cremeux inside the chocolate shell was very different and enjoyable.
The dessert was yuzu cake, topped with crème fraiche, yuzu caramel, jasmine ice cream, and a honey tuille.
Finally, the “McDonald’s Brekky” was a take on a sausage and egg McMuffin. It was a sesame macaroon, yuzu jelly representing the cheese, yuzu gummy to represent the egg, and a chocolate vinegar mash to represent the sausage pate. Very innovative and a nice way to finish an exceptional meal.
The lunch today had 12 courses and we enjoyed every one of them. Service was very friendly, and the staff took time to explain the dishes to me when I asked questions. I’m not sure why The Wilderness hasn’t a Michelin star, it should have. The food is exceptionally good, and I even enjoyed the rock music.
The Coffee and Tea Selection:
Outside the restaurant in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter:
Inside the restaurant: