The last time I was sat in Smoke at Hampton Manor a friend had private hired it for his partners birthday. It was the first night of the staycation, the supposed quieter evening before the following day’s activities of wine tasting and Michelin starred meals. Alas, as with all great plans, our best intentions tumbled. Too much wine was drunk and one of the party took over the sound system because he wanted to listen to Milli Vanilli on repeat. We laughed and drank and ate, apparently. I can’t recall much else, other than a whisky tasting going badly awry and the following morning’s story of a cleaner having to tell two, maybe three, possibly seven people to go to bed. I imagine it’s highly unlikely we’ll be holding next year’s celebrations there. I’m frankly surprised they still welcome me back.

Stuart Deeley wasn’t heading up the kitchen that night, though by then the worst kept secret in Birmingham had been announced. To those who were familiar with Stu’s cooking and had been to Smoke, it never appeared an obvious match. Stu’s style, as well documented on Masterchef, was full of Asian influences and dry Brummie humour; complex and loaded with components. Smoke on the other hand was stripped back, with highly seasonal food cooked in the wood fired oven that punctures the wall. It’s hard to imagine that oven producing the pork belly and langoustine with Thai green sauce which wowed some of the best chefs in the world on BBC1.

As visits from a certain guide will testify, in reality the fit is tailored extremely comfortably. The focus is on flavour, making cohesive plates of food which appear simple but are loaded with technique. They don’t give away too much at the beginning: a smorgasbord of cured meats, veg from the garden; pickled, raw, and fried, the most perfect sourdough from their bakery. Butter, and a nasturtium dip which I think was intended for the veg but ends up coating the chewy crusts of the bread. It serves as a reminder of slow food being omnipresent at the manor; the fermentation of yeast and the slow bake to the blackened crust, the waiting game for vegetables at their peak, or the curing of meat.

And then, well, I fell in love. A fried egg hiding a fudgey pile of slowly cooked Jerusalem artichokes, itself under a drift of stinky black truffle, completed with wild mushrooms and a pouring of artichoke soup. Everything is a concentrated exploration of the ingredients with just a lick of vinegar to lift it. Earthy, rich, with just a hint of smoke. It’s a stunner. Same with a disc of smoked trout. What looks simple is a refined balancing act between the fish and its components. The pickled fennel lifts everything yet the trout remains the star.

Guinea fowl for main. Breast with crisp, buttery skin; thigh meat confit and crisped-up. A cep purée to pin everything to the ground, king oyster mushroom, and a red wine sauce which on paper threatens to kill everything, but in reality adds a lovely mulled note that cuts through the richness. I ask for more truffle but it doesn’t need it. On the side is roasted hispi cabbage, lubed-up in a dressing of roasted garlic and dill, with a billow of crispy shallots on top. Even better is Boulangere potato of sorts; with wedges of baked spud splayed around a thick tangle of caramelised onion, both cooked in a reduced smoked onion stock from which I get into trouble for pouring into my mouth directly from the skillet. It’s cookery of the highest order and the sides (perhaps unsurprisingly) work in tandem with the mains. If this isn’t Michelin star worthy I’m sacking off the fancy meals for good.

Dessert is tarte tatin, as good as any tatin I can remember eating, as good if not better as the one at Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road, with vanilla ice cream and a pot of salted caramel sauce which is given the correct burial of spooned direct from pot to mouth. Impeccable work and I’m not just saying that because tarte tatin is my dream restaurant dessert.

Dinner is £70 for four courses, with our bill hitting double that per person with too much good wine. I’ve been a fan of Smoke since it opened, though, without downplaying the previous team, this meal was a level-up from previous dinners. Stu Deeley’s ability has never been in question as a chef and here, in his own restaurant, he is flourishing. Smoke is one of the jewels in this region’s culinary crown.