The Wilderness is one of those restaurants that everyone has an opinion on and seems to be Birmingham’s best kept secret amongst those in the know.
Based on Dudley Street, The Wilderness is around the corner from The Electric and so discreet is the entrance, that even the staff in the cinema were unable to direct me to it. You’d easily walk past it, which immediately makes it feel too cool for school, which of course, I kinda love.Starting life as a pop up called Nomad, the restaurant is small, intimate and quirky, serving fine dining, modern British food reflecting ‘time, memory and place’. The interior reflects the menu, with a nod to their love of nature, working with local farms, their allotment and foraging for their ingredients, evident by a big tree in the middle of the room and leaves and moss all over the walls. The contrast of urban and nature is very clear, set against slick, dark walls and tables. But at the same time, it feels stripped back, simple and reminds me of the many one room restaurants in East London, hidden down various streets.
We were here for the multi-course menu, 6 courses for £60. The menu has an option which matches drinks for £110 but we decided to order our own drinks. As the menu changes regularly due to seasonality, I was conscious of being confronted with dishes that were not my bag so when booking, I did opt for no fish, which they were more than happy to accommodate.We started the evening with an amuse bouche, a cauliflower based soup, with a cream foam topping, served in a shot glass. It was an interesting start and definitely set the tone for the boldness of the menu. It was tasty and seasoned well but I didn’t really enjoy sipping it and in hindsight should have asked for a small spoon.
This was followed by a charred Baby Gem, Lovage, Hazelnut and Fennel. Delicately seasoned, with crunch and freshness from the fennel, this was a lovely and light start that left me wanting more.We then moved on to Hogget, Tonka Bean and Beetroot. The hogget is basically lamb that’s younger than mutton, so it was tender to cut through, yet had a lovely rich flavour that went well with the sharpness and freshness of the beetroot. If anything, I’d have liked a few more slithers of this to enjoy. Next came Egg Yolk, Asparagus, Dashi, Mushroom and Wild Rice. The egg had been cooked at the perfect temperature so that the yolk was runny, yet soft, complementing the asparagus completely. The crunch from the wild rice was a nice effect but I wouldn’t have missed it if it hadn’t been on the plate.The second meat dish of the night was Iron Age Pork, Black Garlic, Parsley, Moss and Girolles. The pork was tender and tasted insane against the rich, earthiness of the mushrooms and parsley dressing which was just a great combo. The moss was an interesting one, crunchy and light, it added something really different and moreish to the dish.Welsh Wagyu, Carrot, Shiitake Mushrooms and Asparagas was the standout dish of the night. The Wagyu was rich, juicy and tasty af, partly down to the high level of fat marbling which when cut through, was heaven on a plate. Combined with the hearty shiitake mushrooms and beef jus, it was just perfection. Although the portion looks small, it was surprisingly just the right amount in the context of the rest of the menu. Buuut if I had my way, I’d have loved two pieces of this instead of the pork.Finallly, it was time for desserts and we were spoilt for choice with our first one- Rhubarb and Grapefruit Sour which was made up of a crumble, sorbet and edible flowers. A really pretty and fun dish. The final dessert of the night was Pea, Mint Aero and White Chocolate Meringue which was bursting with creativity and refreshing flavours from the melt in the mouth meringue to the crunchy pistachios and cool sorbet. This is a dessert I can’t stop thinking about because it was executed so bloody well. And to end the evening, gold chocolate skulls filled with salted caramel. Divine.I was really impressed with the food at The Wilderness, the dishes are bold, brave and truly unique but I did feel like a lot of assumptions were made about the ingredients used. I was excited about the menu and as someone who doesn’t eat moss on the regular, I wanted more of the story, the context. I wanted to ask so many questions but something about the vibe meant I didn’t really feel like I could. It almost felt too formal at times and didn’t reflect the comms or positioning of the restaurant that I’d read about and the vibe was generally just a little too chill. I’m not expecting a party, of course not, but I expected more theatre, more enthusiasm and more fun about the food journey we were about to go on. Despite this, I’d definitely go back for the food and I’ve already visited again for a #norules lunch which was brilliant.
Would I recommend The Wilderness? Absolutely. Go see for yourself- it’s definitely one that will be on your mind for a long time after visiting, for all the right reasons.