dish with pomegranates & fennel flowers

Clamato: an unexpected journey in Paris

That time of year came round again: Paris Photo in November. My aim and my desire was to eat at Septime, No 15 in the ranking of the world’s top restaurants and tucked away in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, between Bastille and Père Lachaise. Like in life, I was a wave in an ocean, and that ocean washed me up not at Septime but next door, at Septime’s little sister restaurant, Clamato.

Don’t get me wrong. Eating at Clamato saved me a lot of money, the music flowed, and so did the food and wine, yet how I hankered after one of those two seats by the bar and in front of the window at Septime. That is now for my next visit to Paris.

Sometimes things in life don’t turn out as you want them to. Open yourself to the flow, and life can be just as enjoyable, if not more. My mind says ‘control’, ‘control’, ‘control’ – that is what I was taught – my heart says ‘let go’, ‘let go’, ‘let go’.

A good reason to go to Clamato rather than Septime: here is where the fun crowd hang out. Thank you Clamato for giving me such a great welcome!

What I ate and drank at Clamato

Clamato is a seafood restaurant. It is open every day and almost all day – a must-have address in a city where so often things are closed because of weekends or holidays. Like Septime, it is about small producers, local and seasonal, with ingredients given a new twist by innovative chefs.

Mesclun, pear, haddock, hazlenut, Clamato, Paris
Mesclun, Pear, Haddock, Hazelnuts. This followed Strips of Yellow Plaice from Noirmoutier with Pomegranate and Fennel, as in the featured image,
Table by window, Clamato, Paris
The back of the restaurant looks over a courtyard garden
Bottle of Macon Villages, Clamato, Paris
A white Burgundy by Julien Guillot, who produces wines as naturally and authentically as possible. My other wine was Le Blanc de la Fosse Vineuse by Thierry Hesnault.
Stairs with person, Clamato, Paris
The stairs to upstairs
Dish of food, Clamato, Paris
Squid from Oléron with Pepper and Pickled Grapes
Bottom of plate, Clamato, Paris
Falcon Enamelware plates originally from the 1920s and made in the Black Country in Britain
Ceps, Clamato, Paris
Roast Ceps with a Fig Leaf Sabayon
Menu, Clamato, Paris

Across the road to Séptime Cave à Vins

Across the road is the Septime Cave à Vins. I wanted to buy a bottle of Le Blanc de la Fosse Vineuse by Thierry Hesnault, from the Loire, but the cave was closed on both Monday and Tuesday, the two days when I was in the area. Peeping through the window, the menu of cheeses and saucisson to accompany the wine looked good.

Sign, Cave a Vins, Septime, Paris

Le Sevran

I heard about this trend in New York… a few dishes in one restaurant and then a few more in another. A practice that recalls going for tapas in Spain, with the difference being that in New York you sit down, while in Spain you stand up. With this in mind, on my second day in the 11th arrondissement, I had two dishes in Clamato and then moved on to Le Servan for another two.

Now, the chef at Septime is Bertrand Grébaut, a former graffiti artist who honed his culinary skills with Alain Passard at L’Arpège. Bertrand’s wife Tatiana and her sister, meanwhile, have opened Le Servan, a 15-minute walk up the back streets and towards the northern end of Père Lachaise, the famous Parisian cemetery.

At Le Servan, the style is totally different: a place with more hearty main courses, fewer oysters – Clamato, being a seafood restaurant, offers plenty of oysters – and much more peppery spice. Like at Clamato, I sat at the bar. A definite neighbourhood corner restaurant.

Mussels, Thai Basil, Le Servan, Paris
Mussels with Pepper and Thai Basil
Artichoke, Le Servan, Paris
Artichoke with Tandoori Cream
Arthichoke heart, Le Servan, Paris
Once I had eaten the leaves, the artichoke heart was taken away, and reserved with pepper and chives
Flowers, Le Servan, Paris
A touch of nature

With a long evening of work ahead of me, two courses at Clamato and a glass of wine, and two starters and a coffee at Le Sevran worked perfectly. On my way to Bastille, I stopped off at Ten Belles Bread – the suppliers of bread to Septime and Clamato – to buy some morning granola and bread for my sandwiches.

I also could not help and marvel at some of the architecture in the 11th arrondissement.

Boutet facade, Paris
The Maison Boutet in the 11th arrondissement once imported exotic wood. Then it made chocolate. Now it is a five-star hotel.
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