The latest restaurant opening to the city, Nocturnal Animals has been getting Brummies very excited.
From the award-winning team at The Wilderness, Nocturnal Animals will be the second restaurant by Alex Claridge to open its doors in Birmingham.
The 80’s pop culture inspired restaurant will offer diners an ambitious fine dining menu, imaginative cocktails and an tongue and cheek afternoon tea.
We sat down with founder and head chef, Alex Claridge to pick his brains about the inspiration behind the menu and what Nocturnal Animals is all about.
How did you learn to become a chef?
I started cooking at university to make a bit of money and to try and impress girls. I’ve always been into creating stuff, like music when I was younger. I took a corporate job straight away which was one of the worst decisions of my life. I did about a year of it. I thought ‘oh this is what I was supposed to do’. It was so dull. So I kind of went through in my head, well what do I enjoy doing that is legal and that I can make a living from. The list was quite small and I’ve done a bit of cooking at university so I thought I might as well do it again and see how I get on.
Cooking for me is means to an end. I love creating stuff and the stuff I create is with food. I am not bothered with rules. I find cooking quite freeing. Food is just a medium like anything else.
What is the reason behind the name ‘Nocturnal Animals’?
I’m a massive fan of Tom Ford. He adapted a novel called ‘Nocturnal Animals’ and I just think it’s a beautiful word.
When it comes to hospitality, you become a Nocturnal Animal literally, in the sense that you come out of the dark, you socialise in the night and you don’t quite know what’s going on. I like that slight darkness to the name. My sense of humour is quite relatively dark.
Plus it looks quite good written down too.
How would you describe Nocturnal Animals?
I do menus that I like, I don’t design for the influence of other people. I design for the influence of me and if they want to come then wicked and if they don’t, there are other options available in the city. I love 80’s music. I love the power of listening to proper 80’s bangers. They just make you smile because they are so bad lyrically. I wanted to create a restaurant that was sort of 80’s and very pop culture lead. I wanted it to be tongue and cheek. There are a lot of different spaces in the restaurant with different quirks. I wanted it to be provocative and bold. It’s not a family venue. It’s not going to attract everybody. I wanted it to be fun. I thought let’s basically create a party bus but in a restaurant that does really good food.
What is the inspiration behind the food menu?
I wanted food that was both familiar but can be presented in an exciting, playful way. For example, we have a progressive version of a Katsu Curry but we have done a Quail Katsu Curry that has some technical elements to it. We also have our own version of the Thai Red Curry but added our own twists and extra little touches.
The food is quite collective like everything we do but it’s all big in flavour. There’s smoke, there’s savoury, there’s a bit of heat and I think it’s the sort of food that goes well with drinking.
The menu is basically takeaway Chinese food but more refined. Our price point is lower than any other fine dining restaurant with our lunch menu priced at £28.
Hungry anyone? QUAIL KATSU 🤩 pic.twitter.com/JlyRfa0WsH
— Nocturnal Animals (@Nocturnalb2) October 23, 2018
Where do you get your ideas from for creating food dishes?
Coming from it at the creative angle, it always stems from what I want the person to feel when they finish their meal and it will go from there. A lot of my ideas is just from food that I have enjoyed. I think ah I really enjoyed eating that curry I’d like to do a clever version of that. Sometimes it is ingredients, we’ll get something that is phenomenally good and I want to do justice to it. It’s all quite collective and there’s no rules. Music, art, fashion and other creative stuff are the things that inspire me a lot more than other chefs. I’m not really fussed about what other chefs are doing.
What’s your favourite dish off the menu and why?
I don’t know. It’s quite a balanced menu so it depends what mood I’m in. I do love the Quail Katsu Curry. I think it has a fun, playful twist on it. On the opening menu, there is a Tuna Tartare which is fresh as hell and I love that because it’s clean and you can taste the ingredients. That’s a big thing with our cooking, even if it’s spicy or dirty, we want the flavours to be at the forefront. All the food is exceptionally good.
You like rock ‘n’ roll music at the Wilderness, what music can customers can expect to hear in Nocturnal Animals?
80’s music really. 80’s was a great time to be alive I think. I was only just alive in the 80’s but I understand I was pretty wild in the clubs at two years old. I’ve always got time for a bit of Prince. It is fun music that I think everybody enjoys. If you imagine Reflex with slightly more class but only slightly…
Nocturnal Animals will be fully open on November 7th from Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm to 11pm on Bennetts Hill. Reservations are now live on their website to book for November and December.