This may have been what Chef Bertrand Grébaut was thinking when, after a stint at L’Arpège and winning a Michelin star at L’Agapé, he opened his own restaurant, Septime, creating a bistro that may not be Michelin-starred but has made it onto the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.
His idea was simple. A surprise menu of dishes that change daily depending on the availability of fresh ingredients, highlighting flavours and aromas and demonstrating the strength of the kitchen and the calibre of the chef. On the plus side, the telling presence of the sommelier who has put together a very good wine list, and the option to savour vinicultural gems by the glass. One may be puzzled by the success, given that the idea was not exactly groundbreaking. It’s probably due to the chemistry and a combination of factors which may be obvious but ultimately work. For instance the fact that the sourcing and preparation of ingredients is meticulous, yet the result on the plate does not resort to foams, smoke and other such techniques to state its case as a kind of gourmet comfort food. One example is the fresh poached egg set in a chanterelle broth, a dish so ‘strong’ in flavour that you think you are eating meat. Or the lamb, cooked three ways and served with vegetables, the only word for which is harmony. Next to arrive was the chicken, which appeared a little too pink to be safe for consumption, but it was truly delicious. Grébaut has endeavoured to “democratise” haute cuisine and has succeeded by liberating it from whatever is superfluous. Even the restaurant’s location, outside the centre, the almost rustic decor and cool lighting perfectly match the lively, even boisterous atmosphere. Both times I visited, I was pleasantly surprised by the desserts, once with a hay-flavoured ice cream and on the other occasion with bread ice cream.
The service was impeccable, quite unusual for a French bistro, and the chef himself visits the tables at the end of the evening. The only problem is the waiting list, so if you lack patience I recommend that you go to Septime Cave. It is a small wine bar on rue Basfroi, just around the corner from Septime, where you can try a series of small dishes prepared by Bertrand Grébaut and enjoy some fine wines of small producers by the glass. It is second best, but sometimes in life you simply have to compromise.
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