It’s been almost four years since I last ate The Wilderness, though in my defence I have paid for a meal in the last year. You’re welcome, Lucy. Really, you’re welcome. Don’t worry about thanking me for the meal and cocktails, honestly, it’s fine. In that time the restaurant has changed a little. They have a new head chef, a new drink program, and the interior has had a little spruce. There are quotes scrawled all over the walls and doors, some by The National, others more profound. I think there is a Bukowski in the corner, the one about drinking beer and killing war.

I’m almost certain it was Bukowski. Must be given that Alex is quoting him at me just a few minutes later. If memory serves me correct it was the one about the problem with the world is that the intelligent people being full of doubts, and in which case I really hope that he is implying that I’m one of the stupid ones for being the pig-headed arrogant prick that I am. We’re having a quick natter whilst my negroni arrives – the best negroni in Birmingham, I’ll add – and we’re discussing the usual. I apologise for taking years to come back to eat and he tells me that nobody has an obligation to eat anywhere. This is why I like him. He’s right. I have no obligation to eat fucking anywhere. I’m here because I want to be.

Best negroni in Brum down its food time. A pillowy flat bread, kissed with smoke, is the base for caviar, wild garlic, sour cream and dill. It’s high in acidity and all the better for it, tasting a bit like eating caviar off a Pringle, which is a brilliant idea and one I’m fully on board with. Then a lightly cooked scallop in a zippy sauce that echoes Thai green curry. I’ll be honest, there is a lot of higher-end restaurants doing the Thai green jig at the moment, but this one of the better ones. Lovely lemon grass notes and milky coconut, cut through with a little lime. It’s interesting, as is the Greek white chosen by the sommelier who has messaged me to tell me to order it from his sick bed.

I’m on red by the time the duck arrives, a proper good pinot noir from a very solid wine list. The duck is in two parts; a plate with breast, foie gras, and sauce. The second bit a bowl of braised onions, potato foam, crispy potato, and chives. The duck has a good cook with crisp skin, though I’m less keen on the slightly mushy foie. What makes it is the sauce, sweet and sour with tamarind, sharp enough to cut through the fattiness and sweet enough to make it all sing. The bowl of Bombay potatoey only adds to the joy.

Two desserts finish me off. Strawberry with oolong tea infused creamy thing is simple but outstanding. I’ve wrote in my notes ‘subtle grassy flavours remind me of Wimbledon’ which means either my taste buds were working that day, or I’m pissed and day dreaming of the Wombles again. Probably the latter. Then the banana, synonymous now with The Wilderness to the point I expect them to bin it soon. It tastes of cherry cola ice cream float, just like the menu said it would.

There are lip shaped petit fours to finish, though don’t ask me what they are flavoured with, as I’m too busy working my way through the digestif cocktail list. I try two; both excellent, but the Tokyo one with banana and whisky is so good I enquire about buying a full litre of the stuff. And with that it is hard to surmise the meal here on the right note, but I’ll try. Alex himself has publicly said he’s come to personal terms with being overlooked by Michelin, and, in all honesty, I’m not sure The Wilderness is the right fit for something so rigid. It walks its own path, subtly influenced by its own vision of what Birmingham is and what it represents. And as I sit there finishing up my drink, listening to The National, right that second there is nowhere else I’d rather be. But what do I know, I’m just an alcoholic who became a writer so that I could stay in bed until noon.