Whenever I fall a bit out of love with Michelin-starred restaurants, a visit to Simpsons helps to revive my flagging passion.
Here’s a restaurant where the star isn’t a symbol simply of the place’s vainglorious pursuit of the award – an end unto itself – but a reflection of its deep commitment to customers and understanding of what it takes to give them a good time.
And at the heart of this, of course, lies the kitchen.
One that lacks an ego but not an identity, so that dishes are designed and cooked to please rather than show off the chefs’ ability to embrace the latest trends and fads.
One is which there is a large degree of skill and discipline.
I’ve been left deeply underwhelmed by the overly conceptualised food at some highly-regarded gaffs over the past year or so.
Here, at Simpsons, on a midweek lunchtime, my wife and I felt cosseted and satisfied.
Which is pretty remarkable when the lunchtime deal is £39.50 for three courses, including half-a-bottle of wine and the usual accompaniments such as very fine bread.
An amuse bouche of thin, crisp squid ink crackers with a sort of beautifully smooth and delicately fishy taramasalata was a lovely way to start the meal.
Starters were likewise on target.
Mackerel was a nice chunk of zingy fresh fish and came with pretty heritage tomatoes, a confit tomato so sweet that it was like a giant crimson sultana, peppery nasturtium leaves and a smoked tomato stock that was refreshing and deep.
Baby beetroots of various shades were served with iced goat’s cheese, red vein sorrel and shards of beetroot caramel that packed a punch and were the colour of exquisite stained glass.
This was a lovely combo of earthy, salty and sugary notes enlivened by the acidity of the sorrel.
The Cornish lamb to which I progressed was succulent, tender and very flavoursome.
There was a dense potato terrine, verdant peas, a sweet puree of Jerusalem artichoke and the ozone snap of sea beet.
But raising the dish to an altogether loftier height was a rich, layered lamb jus that showed executive chef Luke Tipping’s young brigade have mastered classical French techniques.
Which helped keep in check an emotion from which I’ve never suffered before – mushroom envy.
For Lynn had chosen a gorgeous looking dish of fresh summer truffles, truffle dumpling, barbecued new season leeks, caramelised yeast and watercress.
Now there are those who maintain that truffles should be scoffed only during the winter and early spring months and they’re entitled to their opinion – however muddle-headed.
Truth is, summer truffles are simply more delicate – lacking the oomph of their winter cousins, but nevertheless possessing a fine earthy, nutty, musky flavour.
These were shown off to great effect in a dish that perfectly illustrated why Simpsons was recently acclaimed in an international guide for its vegan options.
A fluffy, crumbly frangipane tart was no-nonsense baking, but displayed a massive gasp of technique.
Juicy cherries added freshness but the dessert’s glory was an indulgent, audaciously boozy cherry beer ice-cream.
Opposite, my wife adored a summery combo of gooseberries, cheesecake mousse, elderflower granita and ginger crumble.
Simpsons is the granddad of fine dining in Birmingham – responsible, I’d argue, for much that’s good about our dining scene.
It’s a star.
Need to know
The £39.50 lunch menu is available Tuesday-Friday.
The price is £45 on Saturday and Sundays.
Tasting and a la carte menus are also available.
There are vegan and vegetarian options.
20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DU. 0121 454 3434.