Last month food lovers across Birmingham were shocked by the news that, after a year in their permenant residence, the beloved Nomad restaurant was being forced to close to avoid a costly legal battle over their name. The news was not all bad however, and excitment took over the initial disappointment, as owner Alex Claridge announced they were to re-open with a new name and a new dining experience. Enter The Wilderness, a fine-dining concept that is taking Nomad’s experimental flair to new heights. Last week I visited for one of their soft-launch evenings, before the restaurant opens on Wednesday, and I can quite safely say that The Wilderness is everything that we hoped it would be.
Inside The Wilderness the restaurant’s theme materializes in the form of a leaf canopy, faux-shrubbery walls and trickling water. This unusual setting, in an otherwise warehouse-style building, is a clear indication that the experience that awaits is not going to be your average evening of fine-dining. The service was faultless throughout the night; the staff were very friendly, the food was brought in good time and each dish was fully explained to us – at no point did it feel as if there were any teething problems for this new restaurant.
For the drinks, The Wilderness has enlisted the expertise of Robert Wood from 40 St. Paul’s, creating a carefully crafted cocktail menu that ties in with the nature-inspired theme. Sophie ordered the Green Gimble, made with gin, green tea and elderflower, and I went for the Wild G&T, which was made with a pea and mint infused gin. Both of these drinks were sublime; each subtle flavour was allowed to come through, and the simplicity of the presentation showed a confidence in the taste of the drinks.
On the evening we tried the six course ‘full story’ option, which can be ordered as pescatarian or vegetarian, if advance notice is given when booking (here I had the pescatarian). Chapter one, a raw scallop and a cooked scallop, was perhaps my favourite course, and certainly got me excited about what was to come. The raw scallop was mixed with chopped onions and the beautifully tender cooked one was topped with sea herbs and embers from the fire, adding a crunchy and smokey element. Both were served with an apple and cauliflower puree and oyster leaves that were covered in edible glitter. The flavour combinations in this course were so exciting and fresh that each mouthful was an experience.
Chapter two consisted of two courses – a ‘summer 2016’ duck egg and a ‘picnic 2009’ cheese tart and salmon. The duck egg was slow cooked to create a creamy, sliceable texture, and was served with pearl barley coated in beetroot powder, asparagus and a cabbage leaf. This combination was divine, and the contrasting textures of the silky egg and almost tooth-breaking pearl barely worked really well.
The ‘picnic 2009’ pescatarian option was a slice of smoked salmon topped with strawberry jam and dill, and a sweet cheese custard tart. Sophie’s meat option was a sausage roll instead of the salmon, and her cheese tart had wood-ants running in a line up the pastry case (I also tried some ants, as I decided if I was eating salmon I could probably try some insects! Be sure to let the staff know exactly what you’re comfortable eating). Though the flavours in this course were stunning, they were a bit on the rich side all together, and as the two components in the pescatarian option were so sweet, I would have pehaps preferred them to be nearer the end of the menu.
The final chapter was made up of three courses. For my final savoury dish I had cornish hake served on turnips, hispi cabbage, wild mustards and a creamy carrot puree. This was a less adventurous dish, but it all blended beautifully and the hake melted in the mouth. For meat-eaters this course is Cotswold lamb, and it certainly went down very well with Sophie. Next on the menu was a bite-sized pain d’epice, with carrot, white chocolate and sea buckthorn. These crumbly treats had a fluffy texture, which was cut through with the sharp, zingy taste of the buckthorn, creating a really interesting combination that was over all too soon.
Finally, the meal was rounded off with with an apple cheese-cake, which was simply stunning. The base was made with apple-crumble flavoured crumble, which only made sense once you’d tried it, and was topped with apple puree, apple cream and an apple crisp. This dish was pretty self-explanatory to the taste-buds; an apple explosion so fresh and British-tasting that it was a pure delight. There was, however, a sprinkling of dandelion and burdock flavoured dusting, which came through more in the scent of the dessert.
Overall, The Wilderness offers a dining experience that can’t be found anywhere else in Birmingham. Not only is the menu adventurous and created with only the finest ingredients, it is also executed flawlessly by some incredibly talented chefs. The menu is set to change seasonally, driven by the restaurant’s foragers and local allotments. Lunch is £35pp, the short story is £50pp, and the full story is £65pp (prices do not include drinks). Visit The Wilderness’s reservations site to book or call 01216432673 – you won’t regret it!
*I was a guest of Sophie’s on this visit. Sophie was invited to the restaurant to dine complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.