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Foodie staycations at Rotunda

We’ve teamed up with long-time friend Alex Claridge, chef-owner of the acclaimed 3 AA Rosette restaurant The Wilderness in Birmingham to bring you a series of high-end foodie staycations. We’ve paired Alex’s provocative dining experience with the sleek and stylish interiors of our iconic Rotunda serviced apartments to create the ultimate socially-distanced night away.

The first three events in July and August were a sell-out and our next event was scheduled for Bonfire Night but in view of the government’s decision to lockdown all leisure and hospitality events, we are having to cancel the event. We are already in touch with guests who have booked.

“Our restaurant experience at The Wilderness has always been one of escape and of bending quite what’s expected, and this pop up is no different. Whilst both holidays and dining out as we remember them aren’t quite possible just yet, we wanted to do something which brought some of the best aspects of both together for the guests we love to serve.  This set up means diners can be assured that social distancing is observed while enjoying a cool welcome break with fine dining that has been sorely missed. We can’t wait to offer guests an experience which is truly exciting and unique, and one borne of its time,” Chef Alex Claridge.

Be the first to know about the next Wilderness foodie staycation

    What the food critic said

    The Telegraph’s food and travel writer, Lizzie Frainier, had this to say when she joined us for the first event,

    “The scallop starter was standout.”

    “Once you’re settled in, the indulgent feeling of not having to leave the room at all is rather romantic.

    “Being able to watch the city come back to life from high above through an open floor-to-ceiling window upped the ante on the sense of freedom and celebration that we all seem to be looking for now…”

    fireworks outside a staying cool Mini studio apartment at rotunda birmingham

    Bonfire Night Wilderness x Staying Cool Dining Event

    Until the government announced its second lockdown, Alex and the Wilderness team should have been dishing up seven-serves from 7pm in the comfort of guests’ own Staying Cool apartments while they enjoyed panoramic views across the city, as well as fireworks, from the top floors of the Rotunda. Tables were being set ahead of check-in to create the perfect private dining room experience. It had to have been one of the safest and fun-nest events to attend but we couldn’t go ahead as planned.

    From the Cooking Cool Recipe Archive

    Some of you may remember that back in 2012 we launched Cooking Cool – all the ingredients to knock up your own two course dinner with a recipe designed by Alex Claridge, chef patron of Birmingham’s brilliant Wilderness restaurant and sometime Staying Cool executive chef. (How ahead of the curve were we? If only we had set it up as a separate business back then!)

    “Staying Cool has come up with a clever solution. Local chef Alex Claridge, of the critically-acclaimed Wilderness, has pulled together a seasonal ‘Cooking Cool’ two-course menu,” Daily Telegraph

    As so many of us have lots of spare time on our hands these days – and mastering new recipes in the kitchen is one way to get something positive out of these strange times – we thought that we would re-release one of Alex’s archive recipes every Friday.

    We had such fun testing these recipes out and feasting on the results. We even did a live cookalong in 2015 on Periscope (remember that?). Alex is such a talented chef and every recipe was a hit with us and guests alike.

    During lockdown Alex is offering individual or group lessons online – Cooking with Claridge – which we can wholeheartedly promise will be lots of fun.

    We also hope to be announcing some exciting news in partnership with Alex and The Wilderness next month which we know you are going to LOVE!

    Recipe Quick Links

    Pomegranate and Blackberry Mess

    Roast Pear Cheesecake

    Harissa Chicken, Pomegranate & Chickpea Cous-Cous

    Pan-Fried Sea Bass, Crushed Sweet Potato, Miso & Dashi Greens

    Barley Caraway and Feta Risotto

    Top chef Alex Claridge and Staying Cool’s Tracey Stephenson test cooking one of Alex’s Cooking Cool recipes back in 2014.

    Pomegranate & blackberry mess

    This is a lovely summer recipe and makes a great alternative to strawberries and cream. It is super speedy too and you can cram in two of your five a day. We served the mess in whiskey glasses. One more thing, you could eek the contents out to serve four people but it is so delicious you will want double portions, so don’t!


    Staying Cool Serviced Apartments' Recipe for Pomegranate & Blackberry Mess created by Alex Claridge  from Birmingham's The Wilderness restaurant in 2016.


    1. Roughly break the meringues into bigger than bite-sized pieces into a bowl and add the whipped cream.
    2. Add the jam and loosely beat together – make a mess as it were.
    3. Toss in most of the berries and pomegranate seeds – but leave a few whole berries for decoration.
    4. Scoop into the four glasses.
    5. Top each glass with a couple of whole berries and pomegranates, sprinkle with almonds and add a mint leaf to finish.
    6. You’re making Mary Berry look bad!

    Roast pear ‘cheesecake’

    This is a super sweet dessert – one for people with a real sweet tooth. You can alter the number of ginger nut biscuits to suit.


    1 Pear

    50g Demerara sugar

    30g Unsalted butter

    1/2 star anise

    250g Mascarpone

    75g Caster sugar

    50ml Milk

    2 Drops of vanilla extract

    7 Ginger nut biscuits, crushed

    Poached pear Cheesecake Recipe
    Roast Pear Cheesecake – made by Staying Cool’s Cory Bryant – thanks Cory!


    1. Firstly, preheat the oven to 180*c
    2. Peel the pear, cut in half lengthways. (Wait to remove the core later as it will be easier.)
    3. Place the pear in a small pan, cover with the demerara sugar; add the star anise, butter and a couple of spoons of water. Place the pan in the oven, basting (coating with the cooking liquid gently with a spoon) every five minutes using an oven glove , until cooked through. (If the caramel is catching, add a small amount of water.)
    4. Whilst the pear is in the oven, whip all the cheesecake ingredients (mascarpone, caster sugar, milk & vanilla extract) with a fork until fully combined and smooth. This can sit happily in the fridge.
    5. Once cooked, remove pear from oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes.
    6. To plate up: divide the cheesecake cream, you’ll want to cheat and have more on your plate OBVIOUSLY. Drop a small pile of the crumbled ginger nuts on the plate beside the cream; place the pear on top, leaning on the cream.
    7. Drop the rest of the crumble over the top and drizzle the remaining caramel from the pear pan over the whole thing. Mmmmmm.

    Harissa chicken, pomegranate & chickpea cous-cous

    This week’s recipe from 2016 has a North African vibe to it and is one of my favourites. It’s super speedy and you can cram in at least three of your five a day. In fact, if you removed the chicken element it would make a tasty vegan snack.

    Enjoy it with either a mug of fresh mint tea (pop a generous amount of fresh mint in two mugs with a drizzle of honey and top with boiling water) or a glass of Lebanese red recommended by Phil and our friends at Loki.

    Alas we don’t have a picture of this dish in the archive so if anyone reading this happens to have one, please do send it to us!

    INGREDIENTS (serves two)

    1. Put the oven on at 180 degrees (fan). Trim the chicken fillets of any excess fat and score the top about a third of the way into the flesh.
    2. Place in a lidded bowl and season with salt and pepper. Rub in the harissa, a drizzle of honey and a drizzle of olive oil so it’s well covered. Lid it and pop it in the fridge.
    3. Pop the cous-cous in a large glass bowl, drizzle with oil, salt & pepper and then cover by half an inch with boiling water. Cover with cling film and put to one side.
    4. Halve a red pepper and de-seed. Cut each half into 3 pieces – leaving 6 large pieces of pepper. Take a few cloves of garlic and add the pepper and garlic to the chicken with marinade – mix the lot around so the veg are covered.
    5. Pour the chicken and veg into a roasting tray. Pop it into the oven and cook for 18 minutes.
    6. Uncover the cous-cous and fluff it with a fork.
    7. Halve the orange and squeeze it over the cous-cous to fluff it up. Next toss in pomegranate seeds, half a tin of chickpeas (or more to your taste) and chopped apricots. Mix it up.
    8. Chop the parsley and coriander relatively finely and add them to the cous-cous.
    9. Check the cous-cous for seasoning– add salt and pepper to taste as well as olive oil and/or more orange juice. Put to one side. Put the kettle on.
    10. After 18 minutes in the oven, check that the chicken is ready – if it’s cooked the flesh will be white, succulent and juicy through. If it needs longer, return to the oven for no more than 2 minutes at a time.
    11. Plate it up. Devil’s in the detail… presentation. This is a rustic dish so ladle half the cous-cous on each plate, top with your chicken breast and some of the peppers from the tray. Toss a handful of pea shoots with olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Et voilà – a plate of green and fresh bursts.

    Pan-fried sea bass, crushed sweet potato, miso & dashi greens recipe

    Well another Lockdown Friday has arrived, but at least the sun is shining and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, a patio or even a small balcony it’s a great day to get some rays. One of the Staying Cool penthouse balconies would be a great place to be right now.

    Friday eating is traditionally all about fish so here’s a recipe from our Cooking Cool archives created by Alex Claridge of Wilderness Birmingham back in 2015. Those of you who’ve tried Cooking Cool will know that we supply all the ingredients to your apartment ready prepared so all you have to do is cook it. It’s like Mindful Chef but we were doing it first!

    This recipe is pretty easy – and a delicious way to enjoy sea bass, one of my personal favourites. The only thing that may be a challenge is tracking down the dashi and miso glaze. If you can’t find that on one of your essential shopping trips then try stirring through a tablespoon or two of warmed honey, soy and miso Tare (widely available near the stir fry veg in the chillers of most supermarkets)  or some traditional miso paste which is also quite easy to find.

    Lovely Phil at Loki has recommended Ca dei Frati, a fresh and dry Italian white wine to accompany the dish.

    INGREDIENTS (serves two)

    Seabass cooked by Alex Claridge of Wilderness for Cooking Cool at Staying Cool's aparthotel in Birmingham


    1. Bring a pan of slightly salted water to boil.  In the meantime, peel your sweet potatoes and cut them into even sized 1-2 cm pieces. When the water starts boiling add your cut potatoes. Put a timer on for ten minutes. 

    2.  Prepare your greens – trim any woody stems from the asparagus.  Put all your vegetables in a bowl and put to one side. 

    3.  Check the potato when your timer goes off – you should be able to insert a knife into the potato with little resistance when it is done. If it’s not quite there, check it at two minute intervals. 

    4.  Drain and roughly mash the potato in the pan with the knob of butter, salt and pepper. Put it to one side and keep warm.

    5. Now the main event – cooking the sea bass. It’s vital you don’t overcook this fish.

    6.  Using your sharpest knife, score across the skin side of the fillet at roughly 1 cm intervals. Be careful not to cut too deeply or you’ll cut the fish into pieces. Disaster. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides.

    7.  Put a large frying pan on a high heat. (Now would be a good time to turn on your extractor fan if you have one. If not, open a window maybe?) 
When the pan is hot add a glug of oil. We use olive oil but any oil with a high smoking point will be fine.

    Wait a minute for the oil to get really hot and then place the fillet(s) skin side down in the pan. Make sure it is skin side down. You want the skin to sear and crisp up.  Use a fish slice or spatula to gently press the fish down into the pan so it doesn’t curl up during the first minute of cooking. 

    8.   Put a full kettle on to boil.

    9. Cook your sea bass for 3 – 4 minutes until the skin is deliciously crispy and golden and you can see the flesh 2/3 of the way up the fillet has also cooked. The flesh will change from translucent to a clean, opaque white as it cooks.

    10.   While the fish is cooking, pour the boiling water from your kettle over the veg in the bowl. Put a plate over the top of the bowl and leave while the fish cooks. 

    11.   Turn the fish over on to its fleshy side and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until just cooked. 

    12.   When you turn the fillet, put your mash back on the heat.

    13.   You’re almost there and things are now looking ace. You’re good at this stuff.  Remove the fish from the heat as soon as it is cooked and pop it on a plate or tray. 

    14.   Drain your veg and season with salt, pepper and stir through the warmed miso & dashi glaze or other soy/miso inspired alternative.

    15. I always think we eat with our eyes and so the devil is in the detail. Here is chef Alex’s  advice on plating up. Put a generous couple of spoonfuls of crushed sweet potato just off-centre of your plate, then lay the sea bass, skin side up, in the centre of the plate. Finish with the vegetables, to the lower right side of your plate. That looks very professional. Well done!

    Now sit down and enjoy, perhaps with a Japanese beer or a nice glass of chilled white.  Happy Lockdown Friday.

    Barley caraway and feta risotto Recipe

    Today’s dish is from 2014. It’s vegetarian and makes for a perfect informal supper now the weather is warming up: Barley Caraway and Feta Risotto.

    Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list. If you’ve never cooked with barley before (we hadn’t) this is actually a pretty simple, bold, vibrant vegetarian main course that, fundamentally, is a one-pot recipe. Easy.

    It only takes 20 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook and just think of the kudos you’ll get from your lockdown buddies when you put this on the table.  So get this risotto on, pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and enjoy the praise.

    Oh, and on the subject of wine our other best friends at Loki Wine recommend you pair your risotto with a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio Albente Falanghina, a fresh white wine from Italy’s Campagnia region. You can find the wine on their website here:

    And while we’re mentioning our other open, indie partners, you can always round off your meal with a cup of QuarterHorse coffee. Look at us, we think of everything 🙂

    Now on with the risotto …


    100g pearl barley

    15g unsalted butter

    45ml olive oil

    1 celery stalk, cut into 5mm dice

    1 small banana shallot, cut into 5mm dice

    2 garlic cloves, cut into 2mm dice

    2 thyme sprigs

    ¼ tsp smoked paprika

    2 strips of lemon rind

    Pinch of chilli flakes

    200g chopped tomatoes

    350ml vegetable stock

    150ml passata

    ½ tbsp. caraway seeds

    1 block feta, crumbled roughly

    1 tbsp fresh oregano

    Salt & pepper

    Barley caraway and feta risotto dish -2


    1. Before you start, read through the ingredients and make sure your vegetables are all cut up and organised as above. This will save loads of time, trust me.
    2. Rinse your pearl barley under cold water and leave to drain
    3. Melt the butter and 1 large dessert spoon of  olive oil in a large pan and cook the celery, shallot & garlic over a gentle heat until soft.
    4. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, lemon rind, chili flakes, tomatoes, stock, passata and a pinch of salt.  Stir and combine.
    5. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. You’re almost done. See, I said it was easy.
    6. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure the barley doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pan. You can have a glass of the Feudi now while you wait …
    7. Toss caraway seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat (4), ‘toasting’ for a few minutes taking care not to burn them.
    8. Crumble feta, add the caraway seeds and drizzle with olive oil and keep in a bowl. 
    9. Once the risotto is ready, season to taste and serve in two bowls.  Top the risotto with the feta & seeds and fresh oregano.
    10. Enjoy.