Writing about food for 30 years can take its toll, and not just on a chap’s waistline and cholesterol levels.
The palate becomes jaded. Cliches begin to replace insights. The enthusiasm that once accompanied each visit to a restaurant is shouldered aside by ennui, which is a posh French word for can’t-be-arsed.
And as lockdown disrupted the hospitality industry and its customers’ eating out habits, so my reviews became fewer and fewer.
Now, though, after a six-month hiatus, my batteries are recharged, my fingers itching to hammer the keyboard to impose pompous and ponderous prose on anyone daft enough to click on to this website.
There are cleverer, hipper and certainly younger kids on the block, but no-one who manages to combine the looks of Gollum with the literary elegance of Evelyn Waugh.
It’s ironic that, in part, the return has been fuelled not by anything edgily new, but by a place with its roots sunk deep into the fertile soil of classic French tradition.
Le Petit Bois is such a likeable place – small, vibrant but chilled, with friendly, attentive and efficient service and food that is cooked with imagination, passion, knowledge and skill.
A Saturday night visit began for me with three chubby spears of asparagus, cooked so they retained a little crunch, served with punchy wild garlic and a luxurious cream sauce dotted with pearls of caviar.
The contrast of the salty fish eggs and the sweet asparagus was a winning combination.
Opposite, a pear, blue cheese and walnut salad was a pretty dish that delivered on texture and flavour.
The duck a l’orange to which I progressed was a fine rendition of an old favourite.
The sauce was rich and caramelised with a underlying hint of bitter fruitiness amplified by a slice of blood orange on the plate.
The duck itself may have benefited from the fat being rendered a little more, but this is a quibble for the meat was tender and tasty.
Creamed spuds were indulgent and topped with refreshing puddle of herby oil.
A cabbage and bacon fricassee was a marvellous accompaniment.
My partner meanwhile ate a perfectly cooked chunk of cod served with Jersey royals and a riotously verdant assembly of peas and asparagus.
A side order of petit pois a la Francaise reminded me of just how good it can be.
A beautifully crafted dessert of coffee and chocolate choux au craquelin was a grown-up and utterly beguiling end to a fabulous meal.
It’s good to be back at the laptop sharing an experience as good as that at Petit Bois.
I’ll be back at the keyboard soon bringing you further ramblings from Birmingham’s most ancient food writer.
Need to know
We paid £146 for food and plenty of wine.
The restaurant has a well-priced menu du jour.
Veggie options are available.
There are some great seafood options.
Le Petit Bois
145 Alcester Road, Moseley Village, Birmingham B13 8JP.