Like a phoenix from the ashes, The Wilderness Birmingham opens on Wednesday 25th May. Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to have an exclusive look (and taste!) of their new menu and immersive dining experience. Thursday was one of the soft launches ahead of the opening this week to iron out creases before they appear. I invited my friend Emily along with me and we are both in agreement that this will be a foodie experience we will never, ever forget!
The restaurant itself is tucked away on Dudley Street, less than five minutes from New Street. Walk by too fast and you might miss it! When dining at The Wilderness, you will be immersed in their natural setting. A canopy of trees and trickling water surrounds you, and the small dining area makes this a wonderfully intimate setting. You are literally eating in a wilderness. When we arrived, we ordered some cocktails and the waiter brought over some brown bread made with onion, which was so delicious! Emily had a Gin & Tonic which had pea and mint infused gin in the tonic. It was very fresh and an interesting twist on the classic drink. I had a Green Gimble which was made with gin, green tea and elderflower. This was a beautiful drink and the only criticism I have was that it didn’t last longer…
Food at The Wilderness
The food at The Wilderness will change seasonally depending on what they can access. I love it when restaurants do this, as it means that each time you visit will be a different experience. They will offer a few different menus; Dinner: The Full Story, £65; Lunch, £35 and The Short Story (Wednesday and Thursday), £50. Drinks aren’t included in the prices. We sampled The Full Story menu which totalled to six courses. As literature lovers, we both loved how the menu was divided into chapters . There were three chapters in total, each inspiring the different dishes featuring within it.
Dusk Falling on a Northern Beach
The first course comprised of Raw Scallop and Cooked Scallop. The Raw Scallop was chopped up and served with onion and oyster leaves covered in (edible) silver glitter. This was fresh and zesty with great contrasting textures between the scallop and crunchy onion. The oyster leaves are strange things – they do actually taste like oysters and gave this dish an earthy element. The Cooked Scallop was absolutely incredible, and had a lovely buttery texture. This was topped with sea herbs and embers which added a smoked flavour. A cauliflower and apple puree was also served alongside it which had a lovely fresh flavour and complimented the scallop perfectly.
Into the Woods
The second chapter had two dishes inspired by past and present. The first was a Duck Egg yolk served in a red cabbage leaf along with asparagus and pearl barely coated in beetroot and balsamic vinegar. The waiter explained how the Duck egg is essentially ‘slow cooked’ in water at 67 degrees so that the white just slips away. This leaves the yolk with a thick, silky texture unlike anything I’ve ever had before. This contrasted with the crunch barley which initially had a sweet, nutty flavour then left a bitter after taste from the vinegar. This whole dish married together flavours that you would never even think of putting alongside each other!
The second part of this chapter was entitled ‘Picnic 2009’. This course consisted of ‘The Ants got to the Tart First’ and ‘Kid Goat Sausage Roll’. Yep, they are actual ants you can see on my plate. Wood ants, to be exact. They were served on the cheese tart with the sausage roll. This was the course I was a little unsure of; the tart was almost a little too rich, and the pastry was sweet. It went with the sausage roll well but sweet and savoury didn’t quite match. The sausage roll however, was wonderful. Seed topped puff pastry enclosed around tender sausage meat that just fell apart. The seaweed mayonnaise was unlike anything I’ve ever tried and was unusually good! Emily’s pescatarian option was smoked salmon served with strawberry which she was a little unsure of. The cheese tart didn’t work quite as well with her fish as it did the sausage roll. Despite being veggie, she did try some ants!
The third and final chapter was my favourite. I loved everything. The first part was Cotswold Lamb served with a sweet carrot puree, turnips, twigs, Hispi cabbage and wild mustards. This course was like a fantastic roast dinner. I love lamb, and this was cooked to perfection. The carrot puree was interesting, but worked well with the bitterness of the mustards. I don’t think I have a bad word to say about this course, though by this point I was starting to feel a little full … Emily’s pescatarian option was Cornish Hake served with the same accompaniments.
These cute carrot cakes had an incredible texture. They were light, fluffy and melted in the mouth. They did fall apart a little too much, but the flavours were just amazing. The spices worked really well and the sea buckthorn gave it a sour kick at the end of the mouthful. Just when I thought this was a bit too much, the white chocolate and buttermilk came in to cool the palette. Heaven.
There is an orchard in the distance … and this orchard was a beautiful final course with apple everything. Apple cheesecake sprinkled in dandelion Murdock powder with apple puree, apple flavoured crumble and an apple crisp. I’m not even that mad about apple, but this was just incredible. Such a fresh and surprisingly light way to finish the meal. Me and Emily were both in agreement that this was a favourite. We then ordered tea and coffee to sip on as we finished our wine. We were surprised how much time had passed, we had literally spent the whole evening eating… which isn’t a bad thing. It just showed what a chilled environment it was to dine in.
Dining at The Wilderness was certainly an experience I will never forget. The flavour combinations I encountered are ones that I never thought could work and I probably won’t experience again. Everything from the intimate atmosphere to the lovely service was so unique. The Wilderness is definitely going places, and they haven’t even fully opened yet. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend heading to this incredible place.
If you don’t fancy a full dinner, you can pop in for snacks which are available from 12:30 – 3:30pm and 5:00 – 10:30pm. These are priced around £3-7 per snacks and will go perfectly with a glass of something chilled and alcoholic…
For more information and bookings, visit The Wilderness’ website: www.wearethewilderness.co.uk. Reservations are strongly encouraged and if you have any dietary requirements it’s best to let them know before your visit.
Have you ever had a dining experience like this? What do you think of The Wilderness?
[pipdig_stars rating=”5″ align=”center” color=”#FAAEB7″]