Cycling is the most French of sports – apart, of course, from the age-old pastime of blocking busy roads with the burning carcasses of sheep.
Thus it was appropriate that a bike race was taking place in Broad Street as I paid my first visit to the recently-opened Bistro Pierre, tucked away in Gas Street.
First, heaps of praise on Bistro Pierre for the imaginative but respectful and sensitive way in which they’ve converted a gorgeous 19th century Grade II building that was once the headquarters of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal Company.
It’s an impressive doubled-fronted building that you’ll probably have been many times.
The restaurant is spread over three floors, with several discrete rooms.
All are furnished with contemporary restraint.
There are French posters on the walls, but the most striking feature is the sense of lightness and space.
A roof-top terrace looks out over the canals of the Gas Street Basin and there’s a small enclosed courtyard.
It must be one of the loveliest restaurant buildings in the city.
There seemed to be a small army of waiting staff scurrying between rooms and up and down stairs in a building that must be difficult properly to service.
But they were all charming, informed and efficient.
The menus are many and various at Bistro Pierre, with set-price, a la carte, soirée gastronomique, breakfast and other options available.
Choosing from the a la carte menu, the shared tartes flambées was a very pleasant way to start dinner.
A thin and crisp pizza-like base was topped with creamy, melted cheese, sweet caramelised onions and smoked bacon lardons.
It was thing that I’d happily eat again. And again. And again.
The poulet fermier de Normandie to which I progressed was a less persuasive dish.
The enormous portions of chicken that were served – there were two portions: the leg and breast had been separated – had a beautiful deep savoury favour.
But the slow-roasted poultry was rather overcooked and dry.
This I’m willing to put down to a kitchen brigade settling in.
The salad leaves that accompanied the bird were fresh and well-dressed. The chips were fine.
Opposite there were no complaints about a bowl of boeuf bourguignon – a rich red wine stew with plenty of shallots, mushrooms and bacon.
Again this was served in a generous quantity.
Side servings of dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables were barely touched – not through lack of quality, but simply because the main courses were so substantial.
Big round of applause, please, for Bistro Pierre serving so many wines by the glass, carafe and bottle.
The Chinon – a Loire Valley red – that I drank alone was a fresh and peppery wine that, at £19.95 for a 500ml jug, seemed good value.
There are, obviously, beers, spirits, soft drinks, aperitifs and digestifs available, too.
Need to know
Expect to pay around £40 a head for wine and three courses from the a la carte.
Cut costs by checking out the two-course prix-fixe lunch for £10.95.
There are vegetarian and gluten-free options.
The kids’ menu costs £6.95.
The place is accessible for disabled people.
46 Gas Street, Birmingham B1 2JT. 0121 616 0730.