Book review: Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D'une île by Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat

30 September 2021 by
Book review: Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D'une île by Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat

Septime was opened in Paris by chef Bertrand Grébaut and his partner Théophile Pourriat in 2011. Grébaut, who trained with Joël Robuchon and Alain Passard, wanted an accessible restaurant, serving a "rigorously French" menu.

From small beginnings and a €21 set lunch, Septime has grown to include Clamato, a tapas-style site, D'une île, a countryside B&B and farm, La Cave, offering cured meat, cheeses and natural wines, and Tapisserie, an artisanal pâtisserie.

The focus of Septime the book is the brand's development, through writing and a photo diary, with black and whites of tattooed chefs, freshly plucked produce rendered as a still life and action shots of fishermen and a bustling back of house.

The dishes themselves are predominantly plant-based, undeniably French in character, yet modern in execution and presentation. Of the 2,538 recipes created across the three restaurants over 10 years, the book offers around 50. Each has a note on vegetable accompaniments, a matched natural wine and when to serve the dish during the year. For example, free-range chicken is cooked with vernal grass, the hay gathered from the field next to D'une île, the recipe itself an homage to Grébaut's mentor Passard. It is served all year: in winter with a Savagnin sauce and in summer with a reduced jus.

Other creations include raw beef with rose mayonnaise and saffron-tomato jelly, French onion soup with eggnog brioche perdue, and fig and fig leaf tartlets with wild blackberry and purple shiso sorbet.

Grébaut shares his philosophy, with an ode to "restraint, discretion and finesse" in his simplified cooking. He adds: "Nothing is set in stone, but I do have some strong biases: food that is environmentally friendly, natural, digestible, fresh, modern while embracing the past, and that focuses on vegetables and micro-seasonality."

But for all the whimsical language and romantic portrayals of life as a foraging French chef, it ends on a serious note: this is not a book for amateurs and some recipes need "professional know-how to achieve good results".

Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D'une île by Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat with Benoit Cohen (Phaidon, £39.95)

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