Soup is seldom a starter I order in a restaurant for it rarely rises above something that a half-competent home cook could rustle up in their own kitchen.
But soupe de poissons is the exception, for it requires a great many ingredients to create and much skill and experience to balance the many strident flavours.
Thus it was almost an automatic choice when I spotted it on the menu at the long-established Moseley bakery, patisserie and cafe Maison Mayci, which has just begun opening on Friday and Saturday evenings.
And what an inspired choice it was.
Lovely firm flakes of fish lurked in its amber depths, layers of flavour revealing themselves with every mouthful.
Rafts of bread spread with punchy rouille grew soggy as they floated on top and added extra texture and taste.
This iteration of the dish did full justice to one of the crowning glories cuisine bourgeoise, that modest, satisfying style of French cooking that’s fallen slightly out of fashion – perhaps because so many chain restaurants do it so badly.
Though there are nods to other nations, the evening menu at Mayci is very much an homage to cuisine bourgeoise.
As I slurped up my soup, for instance, my wife tucked into generous chunks of good quality foie gras golden-coated with butter and accompanied by mango chutney.
Main courses, too, transported us back to a France I remember from my early adulthood when we’d pop into unpretentious Paris bistros and brasseries to eat well for a modest price.
Poitrine de porc glacé au cidre was a hearty main course – a generous oblong of pork belly, its skin crisp and the flesh below meltingly tender.
There was a cider and grain mustard sauce of a sort I’ve not eaten for many years and pomme purée that was madly rich and smooth.
Lynn’s poulet aux écrevisses is another blast from the French past.
Two fine pieces of chicken – a breast and leg – came in crayfish sauce that was light enough to complement rather than overwhelm the bird.
Alongside our mains came roasted new spuds still in there skins and ratatouille – nicely-judged so that the separate elements retained their individual textures and flavours rather than descending into the bland mush that this dish so often becomes.
Portions were generous and Lynn was unable to proceed to dessert.
I, however, decided without hesitation to eat the classic ile flottante – little balls of meringue on crème anglaise.
As is right and proper, the meringue was barely set and the custard rich but light, with a scattering toasted flaked almonds adding crunch.
Why is this dessert not on menus more often?
It’s as glorious as Christophe Duggary in full flight in a Blues shirt.
Certainly its lure alone will be enough to draw me back to Mayci for work my way through its wonderful evening menu.
Need to know
Starters range from £4.70 to £10.
Main courses are £13 to £19.90.
Desserts kick in at £4 and go up to £8.50 for cheese.
There are veggie options.
Children are welcome.
Servings are generous.
The evening menu is currently available on Fridays and Saturdays at the Moseley premises.
You can read more here: https://www.paulfulford.co.uk/featured/want-to-know-where-to-enjoy-french-bistro-classics/
148 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8HS. 0121 449 4413.