Foodwise, chef Bertrand Grébaut‘s restaurant Septime is everything it’s cracked up to be. Eight years after it opened and one Michelin star later, the food is just as good and surprising as it was the first couple of times I ate there in the early days.
In some ways, the restaurant is even better, notably when it comes to noise levels, which I complained about after my first visit. The ceiling has been lowered, and I noticed a big difference right away.
But let’s get to the food, the important thing, so creative and original.
While waiting for one of our party to arrive, we couldn’t help gorging on the divine crusty brown bread and butter. Then more bread arrived, a lovely warm flatbread served with a cream sauce made with Comté cheese – how many times can I use the word “divine”? Better not this time, even though it’s well-deserved, because I will need it later.
It could easily be applied to the first of four courses on the €42 set lunch menu. This was al denté white asparagus with fermented (in Septime’s kitchen) carrots topped with strongly flavored pike roe, which added a slightly smoky touch, and fresh herbs. A wonderful back-and-forth of flavors.
Then came another, truly original starter: an egg yolk and thin strips of squid in a sublime broth. Unusual and satisfying.
One of the main courses (of a choice of two) was a small piece of spring lamb, accompanied by a bite-sized piece of lamb tenderloin. It was tender and tasty, but what really brought the dish to life was the blackened sucrine (a type of lettuce) accompanying it, its slightly bitter taste complemented by a mildly sour sauce flavored with black garlic.
The other main course that day was line-caught cod with a green sauce of fermented milk with sorrel, beautifully dressed up with fresh spinach, broad beans and peas.
The dessert kept us coasting along on our food high: brilliant strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries, strips of candied rhubarb and unidentified crunchy bits bursting with sweetness.
Voilà for the good news, which also included the wine: a sparkling white Savoie AOC made with the Ayse method by Domaine Belluard as an apéritif and then a 2017 Lirac, L’Anglore.
Now for the glitches. Just by coincidence, a friend was trying to reserve a table online at Septime that very morning but decided against it when she saw that the restaurant asked for a credit card number upfront and threatened to charge her €126 (the price of three lunch menus) if she canceled less than 24 hours before the booking. I understand why restaurants do this – they can lose a lot of money from no-shows – but there must be a better way than this punitive approach. And it is rarely possible to cancel more than 24 hours in advance since last-minute problems or illness are the usual cause of cancellations.
In any case, It is notoriously difficult and frustrating to get a reservation at Septime. A case in point: while we were there, one of my friends tried to book a table for mid-May. The response: come back tomorrow and maybe we can help you.
There were other little annoyances. The service was friendly but almost too casual, maybe because the boss was away that day (but even in his absence, eight people were laboring in the open kitchen). For example, when the sommelier noticed that the sparkling wine he had served my friends was flat, he came over and topped up their glasses. Shouldn’t he have replaced them with fresh, bubbly wine? Our main courses, which took quite a while to come, weren’t piping hot, as they should have been. And I found that the decor was a little tired, with chipped paint, for example, on the low wall next to our table.
The food was so good that all was forgiven (except perhaps the problems with reservations).
Let’s hope that Grébaut the influencer – he was recently named one of the 50 most influential French people in the world (really?) by Vanity Fair – will keep a close eye on the wonderful and highly successful restaurant he has created.