At the age of 30 – having trained at the famous Parisian gastronomy school Ferrandi, and then with three-star Michelin chefs Joël Robuchon and Alain Passard – I decided, with my high-school friend Théo, to open a restaurant in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. Our ambition was to build a space we had not experienced anywhere else in Paris, liberated and unpretentious, with first-class cuisine, a beautiful setting, friendly service and a list of the natural wines that we love. Septime opened its doors in 2011.
This was followed by the opening of three other venues: La Cave, an intimate wine bar specialising in natural wines; Clamato, specialising in fish and seafood; and finally, our guesthouse D’une île, a farm set deep in the Perche countryside about 130km to the west of Paris.
After almost a decade of adventure, we were offered the chance to publish a book. We knew immediately that we wanted it to be intimate. It took two years of shooting on film to capture, in its pages, everything that makes up the daily lives of our teams at the venues.
When Septime opened in 2011, we didn’t want to impose on our customers the idea that one food and wine pairing was superior to another. It took several years to understand that people really enjoy wine pairings, and it became a fabulous playground for us. We created a menu with pairings linked to the colour of the dishes as well as to their taste.
You can make this white onion tarte tatin recipe all year round, in every size and with every vegetable available in season, such as fennel or endives.
White onion tarte tatin with mustard seeds recipe
Preparation time 2 hours (including set aside time)
Cooking time 30 minutes
- 12 white onions, unpeeled 50g unsalted butter
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 15g unrefined cane sugar 100g wholegrain mustard
- Fleur de sel
- Double cream, to serve
- Peppery baby salad leaves, to serve
For the shortcrust pastry (pie dough)
- 1 egg yolk
- 20ml whole milk
- 200g strong white bread flour
- 4g fine salt
- 1 tsp unrefined cane sugar
- 150g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1. Make the shortcrust pastry. In a bowl, combine the egg yolk and milk. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and butter. Add the egg yolk and milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Bring together and knead the dough without working it too much. Shape into a ball, cover with cling film (plastic wrap), and set aside for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Wrap each onion in a piece of aluminium foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake the onions for about 1 hour, until caramelised. Let cool, then peel and cut in half.
3. Heat the butter with the thyme and bay leaf in a wide sauté pan over medium heat until foaming. Add the halved onions and cook until golden brown.
4. Sprinkle the base of a 24cm ovenproof frying pan or skillet evenly with sugar. Arrange the roasted onions on it, packing them in tightly. Spread with the mustard.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a floured work surface to 2.5mm thick. Cut out a circle slightly larger than the bottom of the ovenproof frying pan or skillet and then cover the onions with the pastry. Pierce in places to let steam escape while cooking.
6. Cook for 5 minutes on the stove over low heat, then bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Remove the tart from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Just before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve with the cream and salad leaves.
The wines to drink with white onion tarte tatin with mustard seeds
Dry Loire Chenin Blanc
It would be fascinating to compare how this classic Chenin would match this dish both when young and with greater maturity. Either would work for sure – the rapier-like precision of the young wine will cut through the sweetness of the caramelised onions and the richness of the cream, but a mature Savennières would add a thrilling extra layer of complexity.
Domaine FL, Chamboureau, Savennières, Loire, France 2018
This 1ha plot surrounds the château of the same name, planted on sandy loam soils covering a bedrock of rhyolite and micro-granites. It’s expressive in character, open and accessible, with zesty lemon citrus and yellow fruit – but you’ll still find Savennières depth of flavour and mineral power. Steely and firm, this still has years of life ahead. 93 points
Drink 2021-2030 | Alcohol 14.5%
Orange or amber wine is a new addition to our pairing arsenal – with its dramatic colour adding to the visual appeal of this dish. There’s also a savouriness about it that is perfect with onions, although being a young wine you get an element of fragrance too – a really exciting combination.
Didebuli, Orange Kisi, Kakheti, Georgia 2020
With orange wine, Georgia, the cradle of wine, immediately comes to mind. This great-value example gets its colour, and tannic grip, from being fermented on skins for 2-3 weeks in clay qvevri buried in the ground. Long, rounded, textural and approachable, with flavours of citrus, red apple skin and sweet spice. 90 points
Drink 2021-2024 | Alcohol 12%
Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D’une île by Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat, with Benoît Cohen, is published by Phaidon, £39.95 (phaidon.com)