Many fine-dining establishments can be turgid affairs: white walls, table cloths, nothing written on the walls. Nothing could be further from this than The Wilderness, it has: black walls, no table cloths, stuff written on the walls.
Upon entering the restaurant on a fine Friday evening, a spritely goat peeped out of a cupboard and whispered, “Oi, mate, want me to look after your coat for you?” Fortunately, before I did anything rash, I spotted a familiar face – cocktail maestro Rob Wood. “Cocktail maestro, should I take my chances and leave my jacket with this goat?” I asked.
“What goat?” Rob replied.
“The one in that cupboard.”
“That isn’t a goat you silly billy, that’s chef-owner Alex Claridge. You’ve been thrown by the beard.”
“What on earth is he doing in that cupboard?”
“He’s written an essay about ‘the great reset’ on a load of face masks. He likes to stuff them into the pockets of guests for something to read on their way home and include in their TripAdvisor reviews.”
Because my dedication to this sordid website is in a constant state of flux, some time has passed since my visit so I’m incapable of giving you an in-depth rundown of everything that passed my pissed lips. However, what I can do is tell you of the highlights and then offer a neat summary of whether or not I think you should go.
The Carrot 22 – handpicked by Jasper, this dish has many varieties of carrot. At least two, maybe three. A sheep curd? Goat curd? granita slowly melted into the other sauces on the plate to create a delicious puddle to be wiped up with your fingers, that’s what I did anyway – while trying to make eye contact with chef.
Lamb – slaughtered by Jasper Carrot, this dish was brought to life by a bit of belly covered in dots of Caesar emulsion and salsa verde. I’d happily have eaten 400 buckets of those.
Venison – shot by Jasper Carrot, this came with BBQ brassicas: “I ain’t gettin’ no plane.” No, no, in all seriousness it’s like cabbage or something. The faggot accompanying the loin was delicious.
“You should write ‘there’s nothing cheap or lousy about our faggots’ on the wall.” I said to the waiter.
“Like a clever take on the lyric from that Pogues song.”
“We don’t write ‘takes’ on lyrics on the walls, we write real lyrics.”
It was a point very well made.
The vibe of this restaurant can be perfectly summed up by the text adorning the walls. Chef-owner Alex Claridge’s love of music, especially Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies, apparent for all to see. “I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral, don’t understand what I mean? Well you soon will.” An ominous warning before a plate of pretend bananas appeared.
The pick of the desserts was the ‘ceremonial cacao’ especially enjoyable as ‘cacao’ is a word I like to shriek in the style of a crow, something the entire dining room absolutely adored. The 25 year old balsamic adding depth and making the chocolate flavour really squawk.
The conclusion. Should you go: yes. Has this been influenced by chef-owner Alex Claridge writing something nice about me in this week’s I Choose Birmingham email? No, and you’re disgusting for even thinking that. There were a couple of courses I wasn’t fussed by, but when it landed it was as good as anything I’ve eaten in the city.
I had such an excellent time that evening I ended up doing karaoke on Broad Street. Chickity China, the Chinese chicken. You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’.