For numerous years, I have held the desire to dine at Septime, but I have never found a date available for reservation on its website. My curiosity about the iconic Parisian restaurant gradually accumulated after hearing epicurean friends saying good things about it. It is by no means hyperbole to assert that Septime is one of the most famous, yet one of the most difficult to book restaurants in Paris.
Septime has a rather unassuming entrance. Inside, the decoration looks simple and unpretentious. The presentation of the dishes does not seem overly embellished or unforgettable. So what factors have propelled Septime to ascend to the apex of France’s gastronomic scene, as recognized by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants jury? How come nearly all the tables are booked as soon as reservation is open? We shall find out.
Stepping into Septime does make you feel instantly relaxed. The establishment exudes an aesthetic fusion of retro charm and industrial chic. With its minimalist table setting, wooden tables and chairs, industrial-style lighting, all elements converge to create a harmonious space. The green leaves in the courtyard visible from rear windows made me completely forget about the fact that the restaurant is situated in the buzzy and busy 11th arrondissement of Paris. As the afternoon sun permeates the pane, it casts an interplay of light and shadow upon the wooden dining table, invoking a sense of peace and stillness.
On the table
Amuse bouche: celeriac tempura, yellow mustard labneh & celery oil, a bowl of celery stock
Sounds like an unusual combination, but it tastes pretty interesting. Celeriac root is sliced, then fried into a “tempura”. Its texture is light and fluffy, although not as crispy as I imagined. The surface of celeriac tempura is slightly sprinkled with dried herbs. I assume the house made celery oil takes a lot of effort, resulting in a distinct, refreshing aroma that pairs well with the creamy labneh. I like the contrast between a heavy labneh and a “herby” celery essense oil. The celery stock on the side (not shown in the picture) is nicely seasoned, filled with umami taste, however I am not a fan of its lukewarm temperature. I personally prefer stock that’s either hot or cold, not in between.
Scallops, squid, cockles, citrus, and fennel water
Seafood, particularly raw, combined with the zesty citrus, is a usual pairing steeped in culinary tradition. In Italy, fish and citrus fruits are often used to make crudo. The only special thing about the dish may be the fennel cold soup characterized by its subtle undertones of licorice, complementing the citrus with finesse. Squid, with its inherently mild flavour profile, may not always carry its weight. The squid in this dish is especially bland in a cold soup, and the cockles unfortunately have an overly pungent fishy smell.
Glazed cabbage, sea side herbs, pickled daikon, bay leaf butter, broccoli bits & purée
Vegetarian cuisine at its finest, an exquisitely prepared dish. The cabbage is cooked to perfection, very tender and juicy, and you can taste its natural sweetness and a delightful crispness. The fried Broccolini flowers are chopped very finely, resulting in a texture that tantalizes the taste buds. Bay leaf butter saturates the cabbage, and the fat of the butter keeps this vegetarian dish from being too sanitary. The fresh bay leaf has a slightly spicy aroma and the pickled radish brings a refreshing touch, making it a surprising vegetarian option.
Mixed wild mushrooms with pickled grapes, garlic watercress sabayon
I love mushrooms, they possess an intrinsic appetizingness. This exquisite dish features a trio of seasonal mushrooms, each offering a unique texture—ranging from tender to crisp—thus exuding a symphony of natural flavours. The pickled grapes impart a delicate balance of sweetness and acidity, akin to a mild grape vinegar. The garlic-infused sabayon is warm and velvety, gently caressing the palate. On top are small bits of fried bread to add another layer of texture to the dish. Make sure to dip bread in the sabayon so that not a drop of sauce is left.
Trout with feta cheese sauce
The only aspect deserving of praise is the texture of the trout; it appears to be half-cooked and delightfully tender – similar to ham. However, the seasoning is quite unremarkable—to the extent that I’ve forgotten its flavour just a couple of days after my visit. It seems somewhat unjustifiable for a Michelin⭐ establishment, listed among the top 50 restaurants in the world, to select trout—an accessible ingredient. I suspect the primary rationale behind this choice is sustainability.
Three forms of quince, caramelized apple sorbet, buckwheat puff
In my opinion, quince has a subtlety that can be misconstrued as blandness. It tastes somewhat like a mix between an apple and a pear. As a result of its familiar tastes, the quince dessert did not leave much impression. Although there were a variety of components in this dessert, I couldn’t really distinguish the differences in their tastes. The dish was light and refreshing, but not interesting at all.
The five-course menu offered during lunch is priced at 70 euros per individual. I like how Septime prepares vegetables, presenting a sophisticated representation of nature’s bounty on the plate. However, the seafood dishes and the dessert do not reach the same heights.
The servers conduct themselves with humility and without an air of pretension; oddly, though, for an establishment that prides itself on the seasonality and sustainability of its produce, there is a lack of explanation regarding the source of the ingredients, or the inspiration behind the culinary creations. The servers only explained the components of each dish, which comes across as somewhat formulaic. I wish there was more storytelling. Furthermore, it is quite common for restaurants to offer guests sampling wine by the glass, but at Septime we were not allowed to sample any. It is unreasonable and a bit disappointing, in my view.
Taking into consideration that Septime is distinguished not only by its inclusion in the Michelin Guide but also recognized among the World’s 50 Best list, and given the noted difficulty in securing a reservation, I think it falls short of being truly extraordinary. I might give it another try, only if it’s not as hard to get a table.
The only reservation channel for Septime is the official website. Dining reservations are open every day after 21 days. There is no email or phone number. My experience is that the possibility of booking a reservation for 4 people + having seats is relatively high, but if it is just two or three people, it is almost impossible to get a reservation. After making the appointment, the email exchange went smoothly, such as communicating about changing the number of people.
All opinions are personal, based on dining experience on Nov 7, 2023. Read Chinese version here