A Lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant for only 30 Euros? Why not?
A lunch at the restaurant which is ranked 57 on the last San Pellegrino 'Best restaurants' list (2017 update: number 35)? Why not?
Now wait! Is this the same one?!
Well, apparently it is. Septime which is located on the 11th precinct is the restaurant I chose (Who am I kidding? It was chosen for me) to start my Parisian tour. Its chef Bertrand Grébaut worked 'here and there (Joël Robuchon / 'La Table', Alain Passard / 'L’Arpège') and in 2012 opened his rather small restaurant which has already made it to its first Michelin star and Grébaut himself continued and opened aldo an oyster bar and a wine bar. A Busy guy.
Berteand Grébaut - Très chic!
(Fabien Breuil and Arthur Delloye for GQ Magazine)
The dress code I've been told to wear was 'Smart casual', which made me happy since I really like to dress nicely. But in retrospect it seems that the long sleeved shirt and the light jacket didn't quite fit the 37 degrees that boiled the streets that day. Anyway, I thought about it so much that it wasn't casual anymore and it maybe I could have been smarter if I dressed with shorts like some other guys that dined next to us. Anyway it wasn't a fair fight with Grébaut's chic as seen above.
Even if it is a lunch on a normal day you must plan ahead since it is not a last minute lunch idea, but that got taken care by one of the my lunch-mate assistants (yes, I'm hanging around with people who have assistants), so we could pick a table with a view to the open kitchen. Two very tall cooks along with a redhead one stood in front of the patrons and worked industriously, each one with his own task, on the starters and main course. Three others stood on the other side of the kitchen took care of the desserts and preparations for the dinner and we were also able to take a sneak peak to the 'backstage' where dishwashers made it all function smoothly.
And what was absent from this depiction? Sounds and noises. No plates moving, no oven or grill humming and certainly no above whispering-level talking from the staff which was enough for them to understand each other. Silence that left room for the customers to enjoy. From this point of view it is seen like an added value museum: you are allowed to watch - even from up-close - the artifacts, you can take photos, it is recommended that you smell and taste, but anyhow the place and everything inside is for the people and not vice versa as happens in other place, where the 'restaurants' thinks that it is there just like that and the clients will enter-eat-drink-pay-and-leave.
Now let's eat!
But before that a little bit more of my boring philosophy - the lunch menu at Septime is quite small, even tiny, so then rises the old philosophical question: does man have a free will?
The menu combines three starters, two main courses and two desserts, and one can choose one from each section for the ridiculous price stated above. But is it really a choice? Unless one eats by himself it is almost certain that each table will get as much dishes as possible to taste them all, so the kitchen can prepare ahead one or more from each dish 'and the customers will take care of it'. On the other hand it is supposed to be a light lunch menu so if you are in a position of choosing between dishes for lunch on a business day - you are already lucky.
Well, enough blubbering - it is time to eat.
For starters we could choose from fresh Chinchard mackerel with jus de cassis and cucumber, tiny mussels topped with smoked fish eggs and covered with zabaione and tarragon or fresh tomatoes, strawberries and sheep cheese. I chose the mussels and my lunchmate took the fish. When my plate was served I could not see anything besides the warm zabaione cream that slightly sank inside the plate only to reveal the other dish ingredients while leaving its thick and yolky cover. The baked fish eggs crushed inside the mouth, the mussels where tiny indeed but many of them and the tarragon smell filled the mouth. A great dish and don't you worry - there was also happy face on the other side of the table.
For the main course I went for the free range chicken breast with colorful courgettes under herbs and Xerez wine stock alongside a small portion of soft cheese, and each ingredient of this dish was a definition for itself (I really can't tell about how far the free range chicken went, sorry). The chicken breast was tender, its skin was crispy, the stock was 'stocky' and spread the wine odor, the courgettes were as fresh as they could get and the cheese winked me as saying: 'Just to remind you - I'm here if you like'. Of course I did.
The other dish was the other dish of the menu: two whole calamaris blanched to perfection topped with almost transparent foils of pork belly that seems like small gelatin sheets since they were so thin, and big chunks of champignons. A fantastic dish (although I do not regret my choice).
We could not spare the dessert (why would anyone?!) so we took the accurate cheese plate containing Brillat-savarin and Tomme, plus a far more interesting plate: a goat cheese sorbet floating on a dark cherry soup sailing away with a Muscovado sugar shortbread sail. One spoon and another and damn it Is going away… and that's it. A fresh dish perfect for the Parisian heat.
Cheesemonger of the sea
The food was accompanied by a cold Chardonnay and water poured from small cute monkey-ish gin bottles.
Me water, you gin
And one more thing about the kitchen: at some point it went to the cleaning phase. I cannot tell if this is how they clean after every shift or only once a week, but each and every one of the staff climbed and scrubbed with soap and water every corner of the kitchen. I guess that there are clients who do not like to be exposed to that side of the kitchen, but for me it was great.
The check, as said before, summed up at 30 each for the food and another 6 for the wine - a super price for this very relaxing and welcoming Parisian experience as it should.
Rue de Charonne 80, Paris