Having recently been awarded three AA Rosettes, there’s no doubt The Wilderness is now getting national attention as well as local these days.
I hadn’t made it back to the restaurant since Alex and co upped sticks and moved to the Jewellery Quarter, but this changed a few weeks ago when my husband and I booked in for a Saturday lunch. Unlike the bright, foliage-adorned venue of days gone by, Wilderness 2.0 has gone underground – sort of. It’s dark inside, with heavy black drapes and walls licked with charcoal paint.
The moody decor is joined by a soundtrack that’s more eclectic than my love life turned out to be in my twenties. Any restaurant that can blast Tom Petty’s Free Fallin followed by Last Resort by Papa Roach from the speakers over lunch gets my vote. For that exact reason, I’m also certain someone like my mum – a lover of all things light – would find the dark walls oppressive and the music distracting. To each their own, but I don’t think pleasing everyone is something the guys here care about though – another thing we have in common.
Our multi-course lunch, a most on-brand Christmas present courtesy of my husband, started with a glass of an orange wine I wish I’d got the name of and two chef snacks. (My poor memory will become further apparent in this post because, god forbid, I was just enjoying the moment, for once). Packed full of diced raw salmon, the Loch Duart Tart had a paper thin case and a nicely-judged herby hint. Duck filled Yuk Sung Buns made for a rich and moreish mouthful, with a salty syrupy glaze coating the spheres. A lovely ball to pop in your mouth at lunchtime, I wish I’d had 100 more of these.
A Big Mac appetiser combined dainty pieces of steak tartare and the flavours of gherkins, baby onions and a posh burger sauce topped with a cheese crisp that (rightly or wrongly) I used to scoop up the tender meat. The textures of this were totally on point, for me. Meaty Cornish Monkfish with ponzu became my dish of the day instantly, with a silky sauce topped with Japanese Tōgarashi that I’d probably drink by the pint if someone gave me a straw. Herdwick Hoggett up next, with two pieces of the meat that sits somewhere between lamb and mutton (teenage sheep, right?), and carrots braised in the meat fat – they tasted as good as that sounds. The fattier belly piece topped with a punchy chimmichurri was my pick; my husband preferred the more tender morsel, served blushing pink. Both were outstanding so it doesn’t really matter anyway.
Two dessert dishes finished the lunch. Cookies and Cream balanced sweetness from the soft biscuit and umami flavour from a salted caramel drizzle flavoured with shiitake mushroom somehow, I think. The Apple Miso Sesame collectively wasn’t my favourite, but the almost savoury miso ice cream alone is as near to perfect a pud in itself. Before getting the bill some rhubarb jelly and vanilla custard chocolate skulls arrived. Beats a knock off After Eight, I can tell you.
Alongside an evocative menu that’s full of imagination, service is knowledgeable and efficient without ever being overbearing. A meal at The Wilderness isn’t something you forget quickly, and I for one embrace this darker reincarnation. The 6 course lunchtime tasting menu plus two wines and a few beers came in at just over £100, and I’d call that good value considering the quality of the dishes and service.
The Wilderness, 27 Warstone Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6JQ
Disclosure: We paid in full for the food and drink included in this post. All words and images are mine. You can read about my first visit to The Wilderness here.