Review: Maison Mayci in Kings Heath
Food Critic Richard McComb tracks down a fugitive Frenchman – in a Kings Heath kitchen.
8 Poplar Road, Kings Heath. T: 0121 444 8167
I’ve sought him here, I’ve sought him there, I’ve sought that blasted Pimpernel everywhere.
He used to tour Harborne and Edgbaston in a post-war market trader’s van last serviced around the time de Gaulle was given a hero’s welcome following the liberation of Paris.
The Scarlet Pimpernel, also known as Cydrick Tachdjian, operated a mobile French deli service in the way the United Nations stages aid drops in disaster zones, delivering the city’s bankers, accountants and gynaecologists emergency supplies of artisan bread, terrines, olives, patisserie and Reblochon. The produce tasted authentically French because it was, either sourced from the Republique or made with ingredients from the mother country.
Cydrick picked up his nickname because customers were never entirely sure where they would find him, or when he would turn up. Typically French, again. Impressed by the chiming music played by Mr Whippy and Co, Cydrick toyed with relaying the amplified crowing of a cockerel from his mobile deli. The idea, unfortunately, was shelved. It remains one of popular culture’s great lost moments. I, for one, would have loved to have heard Edgbaston’s perma-tanned housewives telling their hubbies: “Darling, the Frenchman’s cock’s gone off.”
And then Cydrick vanished. Le Pimpernel disparu. Au revoir Roquefort. Bonjour tristesse.
I feared we might never meet again. And then my family recently made a spur of the moment visit to Maison Mayci in Kings Heath for an early evening meal. The place, which opens for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights – it’s a cafe for the rest of the week – is run by brothers Remi and David Faveau, French-trained chefs, from Grenoble. The setting and the food is as French as Edith Piaf and ferry port blockades.
We had been in the place for 30 seconds when a familiar face poked his head out of the kitchen. And there he was. “’ello Richard,” he said. ’Twas he, mon ami. The Pimpernel.
Cydrick explained he had gone into partnership with the brothers Faveau. And the van? “It blew up,” he said. The trio appear to take it in turns in the kitchen, a French cooking version of Total Football. It is mini-bistro fare, totally uncomplicated and totally appealing. It is a keenly priced formula followed in towns and villages throughout France but somehow us Brits usually seem to get this sort of thing horrifically wrong. When we do it, the food becomes corporate, impersonal, clinically dull and loses the attraction of what made it so appealing in the first place: straight-forward, tasty cooking.
So blow a raspberry at these places and go instead to Maison Mayci, where simply prepared, rustic cuisine is served with a satisfying sprinkling of under-stated Gallic charm and insouciance.
The idiosyncratic reservations policy means bookings are only taken for tables of five and over. If you don’t want to make an unnecessary visit, ring in advance and the boss will tell you when a table will be free. Or get there soon after it opens, which is what we did, although that’s 6pm, and not 7pm, as we were told. Best to just go with the flow.