After a legal spat about naming rights with a restaurant of the same name some three-thousand miles away, Chef Proprietor Alex Claridge’s Nomad Restaurant and his similarly named projects shut down, immediately reopening as The Wilderness. His restaurant hasn’t moved from its unobtrusive location on quirky Dudley Street, though the interior did get a bit of a refit including a coppice worth of trees and a ton of moss.
Alex and his Head Chef Brian Smith have worked on a number of projects together over recent years from no-price-tag pop-up crazy “no rules” events, gin tastings, breakfast for the Birmingham Breakfast Club including some unexpected invertebrate ingredients, and more (including a pop-up where the oven stopped working and I had my dinner cooked on a pair of panini presses).
The Wilderness team have also just opened a pop-up on the ground floor of Selfridges Birmingham where you can go for some “tapas”, for a quick lunch, or for a cocktail – but that’s for another chapter.
By now I’m hoping you’re getting a feel that Alex is a little bit off-the-wall. In a good way. You won’t be surprised then that the food he and Brian produce is full of unusual ingrediants (e.g. embers, meadowsweet, melilot). It is however still fairly classic cookery, just with presentational twists. In the second incarnation of this permanent restaurant I think the team are now producing dishes with more finesse, and are presenting a more coherent menu. There’s a plan to increase the space in both the restaurant and the kitchen which could take it even further.
A few weeks ago we attended a birthday dinner there for a friend, and took the full tasting menu (£50) with the drinks flight (for the uninitiated that’s a different drink with each course, £30). Chapter one, “The Shoreline – Evening to Dusk” included a first dish of pea, pickled onion, potato, mackerel, served like a rock on a shoreline complete with pink plastic-looking edible flotsam. This was followed by a juicy hand-dived Orkney scallop cooked and served in lightly bitter embers, with caviar. Chapter two “The Forest and the Field” comprised beautiful pink lamb, peppery nasturtium flowers and beans from the team’s allotment, and forest and sea herbs.
Chapter three, “The Picnic 2009”, included three courses. The first included a signature ingredient of wood ant, lemony tasting crunchy ants theatrically marching towards a creamy cheddar brûlée with many flowers, again from their own allotment. Accompanying this course was Black Cow Vodka, made from cheese whey. We then moved on to a pre-dessert of “Jammy Dodgers” which were tasty suite and crunchy à la their namesakes. The final course – “Oh Bollocks” – was a “dropped” 99 ice cream, including a cone, flake, and gooey strawberry sauce.
This is a light-hearted playful place to eat, with interesting and competent cooking, and attentive fine service. It isn’t super formal, so if you’re after that then try one of the many other restaurants we now have offering it, it’s a place to come and smile as you dine at the tongue in cheek jokes from the chefs.
Personally, I’ve never got over THAT carrot…