Getting a reservation at Septime in Paris is a challenge that requires an equal combination of good timing and good luck. But is dining at Bertrand Grébaut’s popular neo-bistro worth the extra effort?
As soon as Septime releases reservations each day, they’re immediately snatched up and gone like front row tickets at a Springsteen concert.
We’re not far from the mark when we jokingly refer to Septime as the hottest ticket in town. Despite the neo-bistro’s compact size and streamlined Nordic decor, an enormous number of diners vie for the relatively small number of lunch and dinner reservations available for Septime’s weekday meals.
We understand the competition from personal experience – it took us three days of trying to get a reservation. You see, Septime may open tables 21 days in advance, but you can’t just wait until midnight to snag a table…
Instead, you have to jump on the website at just the right time of day to be ‘privileged enough’ to score a resy. After fortuitously visiting the website at the exact right moment, we scored a 1pm lunch reservation exactly three weeks before the last day of our Paris trip. Just five minutes later, there was nary a reservation to be found.
Brief History of Septime in Paris
After more than a decade, Septime has transitioned from rebellious upstart to become a major player in the Paris restaurant scene. But, to be honest, despite its originally edgy location in the 11th arrondissement, Septime had culinary chops before both the restaurant and its neighborhood became trendy.
Betrand Grébaut wasn’t exactly a neophyte when he opened Septime with partner Théophile Pourriat in 2011. Originally a graffiti artist who trained to be a graphic artist, Grébaut paid his dues by attending culinary school, interning for Alain Passard at L’Arpège and helming the kitchen at L’Agapé.
Read about our mostly vegetarian lunch experience at L’Arpege.
Chef Grébaut brought all of those experiences to the table at Septime, a restaurant that seems to get more inspiration from Noma and other Copenhagen restaurants than it does from its Paris brethren. Beyond its simple decor, Septime sources more than 90% of its ingredients from within France with a focus on vegetables, whole animals and natural wine.
Septime earned a Michelin star in 2014 and has been a fixture on the 50 Best Restaurants list since 2013, earning the list’s sustainability award in 2017 and currently occupying the coveted 22nd spot. Grébaut and Pourriat also operate Septime La Cave (one of our favorite Paris wine bars), Clamato (a raw seafood restaurant) and Tapisserie (one of our favorite Paris pastry shops) within steps of Septime. Like Paris restaurants Frenchie and Bistrot Paul Bert, Septime rules its block along Rue de Charonne.
Buy Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D’une île to learn more about the history of Septime and follow its recipes.
Our Lunch at Septime
We wanted to love Septime but, alas, that wasn’t the case.
Our multi-course lunch tasting menu was well executed and satisfying. We were even wowed by a couple of the dishes such as the Beets in XO Sauce. The lunch was moderately priced at 65€ per person considering the restaurant’s stature and accolades. The spartan room was pleasant and our worn wood table was comfortable.
Our issue was with the service.
Promptly seated when we arrived, our meal flowed at a rapid pace that was more New York than Paris. Throughout the lunch, we barely put down our utensils before the next course arrived at our table. The speed was most apparent when it came to our wine pairing.
We don’t usually opt for wine pairings but we went for this one based on its mix of unique natural wines produced both within France and as far away as Georgia. However, considering the lightning speed of the meal’s pace, we would have been happier savoring a full bottle. Plus, a bottle would have been less expensive.
Granted, we’re not fast drinkers but we would liked to have finished our pricey glasses of wine before the next course arrived. And the way our final two glasses of dessert wine (Mémoire from the Jura) were whisked away before we could finish them was inexcusable. Yes. There were plenty of diners still in the dining room and after committing 90€ between the two of us for the wine pairings, we would have preferred to enjoy every last sip.
To be clear, we can’t fault any of the food we ate during our meal. While no dish was magnificent, a couple dishes reached great status, specifically the previously mentioned beetroot and the cuttlefish served with dan dan sauce and crispy onion bits.
The service issues weren’t related to language since Septime’s servers all spoke better English than we speak French. We couldn’t help but hear more than a few American accents in the dining room as well as among the servers and in the kitchen.
The servers just weren’t interested in taking the time to explain the dishes or even tell us what they were without us asking multiple times. Perhaps they should have given us a list of dishes either before or after our meal since none of the food was listed or described in the menu.
Beyond the Food and Wine at Septime
Dining at Septime is a score for food travelers who want to experience an affordable meal at a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris. But, frankly, we’ve had better neo-bistro food at Le Chateaubriand and Pierre Sang without having to watch their reservation pages like we were waiting for a release of Hamilton tickets in 2015.
We understand why Americans want to eat at Septime. The neo-bistro has star power. Plus, speaking French is far from mandatory since the staff all speak English. But, considering the allure of wanting to eat someplace truly ‘Parisian’, we can’t quite embrace the attraction ourselves.
If you score a lunch reservation and choose to dine at Septime, manage your expectations and save room for a pastry at Tapisserie. In retrospect, the fantastic Tartelette au Sirop l’Érable we shared at Septime’s sister patisserie was the best thing we ate in Paris that day.
Septime is located at 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France.
Clamato is located at 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France.
Septime La Cave is located at 3 Rue Basfroi, 75011 Paris, France.
Tapisserie is located at 65 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dining at Septime in Paris
Contact Septime exactly 3 weeks before you want to dine at Septime. The restaurant releases reservations 21 days in advance (at varying times of the day) and they go quickly. While you can try calling the restaurant, we achieved success with Septime’s online booking system.
At the time of our visit, Septime’s five-course lunch was priced at 65€ per person and its lunch wine pairing was 45€ per person. The restaurant also offered an optional cheese course for 15€ per person which we chose not to order. As always, prices are subject to change.
Septime doesn’t have a dress code. Most guests including us were dressed in a style best described as smart casual.
Depending on where you’re located in Paris, you can walk or you can take a bus, car share, taxi or the metro.
At the time of our visit, Septime’s lunch menu included five plates served over five courses.
Only you can answer this question. However, one meal at Septime was more than enough for us considering the variety of wonderful restaurants in Paris ranging from classic to nouveau.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: March 14, 2022