Launched in the 11th arrondissement of Paris in 2011, Septime can now be considered one of France’s most influential restaurants having played a key role in kick starting the country‘s natural wine movement. The Rue de Charonne restaurant has been followed by three more sites in and around Paris which - as the title makes clear - are also explored in the book.
Chef Bertrand Grébaut and his partner Théophile Pourriat opened Septime at 30. Now 40, they reflect on 10 years in the restaurant business via a series of highly-readable mini essays. There are details of how each site came about as well as pieces on everything from sourcing and pickling to the pair’s focus on inclusive service and their decision to not employ a sommeliers.
As you’d expect from a booked penned by a specialist wine restaurant, there are detailed articles on wine including pieces on maceration, their love of Jura’s Savagnin grape, their favourite winemakers and a fascinating section that details their approach to food and wine matching.
But the bulk of the book is - of course - given over to recipes. Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D’une île’s beautiful food images - which were taken with an analogue camera - are given a lot of room to breathe, with food pics typically paired with a page that’s all but blank save for a tiny caption. As is often the case with Phaidon’s chef-y books, the recipes themselves are found towards the back of the book (the level of detail will please chefs looking to gain an insight into Grébaut’s approach).
His food is creative without being over the top and typically relies on traditional cooking methods. Dishes include jugged lobster with civet sauce, fermented berries and dried beef; caramelised pointed cabbage with madras curry butter, whipped fromage frais, chive oil and sauerkraut salt; and rabbit fritters with wild garlic salt and ranch sauce.
As pointed out in the intro, Septime and its siblings are relaxed restaurants that don’t take themselves too seriously despite serving some of the very best food in a city that’s famously not lacking in that department. The book reflects this well, being largely free of the naval-gazing that’s often a feature of cookbooks from top restaurant chefs.