Thursday, June 19, 2014

FED AND WATERED...


It is a well known fact among those close to me that I have an insatiable appetite... for restaurants in Paris. The rolling list keeps rolling and though I feed and water the demand, it is never satisfied.

How convenient then, that a very local, low key restaurant I go to all the time recently changed chefs and happened to employ two of the most happening ones in Paris: Shaun Kelly - former chef at Au Passage and Elenie Sapera, formerly of Bones.

At first, I was horrified at the thought of my little secret becoming not so and of the cobbled rue de Mont-Louis thronging with, I don't know, people who don't live in the furthest reaches of the 11th arrondissement, forming a bawdy, excitable congregation outside; making it impossible for me to slip in for a quiet dinner on a Wednesday night without being in the background of several people's Instagrams. I thought it would change, and I liked it just how it was. I felt almost Parisian feeling this.

But luckily, although the food has changed, it's much for the better and the charming and friendly servers remain, along with the calm and happy atmosphere. They also had the good sense to keep the famous Kate Mousse on the dessert menu - adding Eton Mess as a new option, which I'm told is a direct transplant from Au Passage. The opening hours are still maddeningly confusing/non existent at the weekend - maybe I hallucinated that one time we ate there on a Sunday evening. But the food, ah the food - somewhere I already liked very much raised its food game at least several notches? It couldn't really be a better result. Below, some photos from a recent dinner, where we sat at an outside table during l'heure bleue, which did not turn to night until at least 10.45pm.

The menu was printed on white paper - it was the hour that was blue
Octopus and black radish, bone marrow and fresh petit pois
Rilettes of rabbit and pork sandwich - basically a pulled pork burger.  
So then it was onto a special meal on a special day, at the almost impossible to reserve Septime. I did not make this reservation, but I'm told it involved stalking the online booking system to determine when the advance booking thingy clicked round. (FYI - 0.01 AM.) Septime is, of course, somewhere I had wanted to dine since it opened - named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world and one of the few on that list that has the exact vibe I'm looking for in a restaurant, which I can only describe as natural and luminous. Everything in the place glowed with a kind of healthy, radiant light. Bertrand Gr├ębault looked way too young to be directing the kitchen staff, but direct it he did. We ordered so as to try everything on the menu and everything was sublime. The juicy octopus tail with rhubarb will remain in my memory for many years. (The hot trend in Paris is currently meat or fish paired with fruit apparently.)

Details like the tiny white flowers - maybe they were from some kind of bean? and a single nasturtium leaf were considered, but didn't feel pretentious. The candlelight, flowers, rough wooden tables and the enchanted garden behind the restaurant all added to the feeling of goodness and wellbeing. Can you tell I was very happy to be there? I surreptitiously 'stazzed our meal as it seemed rude not to just concentrate on the flavours:

I had cheese obviously
Sea bream, fromage frais, cucumber, those little white flowers; pink veal with bonito cream and capers
(Amazing) octopus with pepper, rhubarb and green beans
The courtyard garden behind Septime
But my brain, the never ending list... is now saying - we have to go to Clamato next.

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