This trip was over two days and nights, the first night spent in Paris, the following night in Dranouter.
Second time eating here, our last meal was dinner, this one was lunch. The food wasn't great, the service was excellent. Good if simple squid a la plancha starter. Good chicken and weak pollock main courses. Very good cheese plate (particularly the Salers) and a weak baba dessert. The pollock was the worst dish, both the fish and its eel sauce lacking flavor. There was some scattershot plating on even the better dishes, with cubes of raw turnip and so on, where the various ingredients didn't come together. We weren't expecting fireworks from the relatively economical lunch menu but still felt it was lacking in refinement. The dinner tasting menu on our previous visit was considerably better, although this time I noticed that the table near us ordering the more expensive lunch tasting menu received largely the same preparations as us, if sometimes using different proteins. Fantastic, well-priced wine list if you like the genre of wines Septime specializes in. Such a handsome restaurant.
La Table d'Aki:
Third time eating here and everything was exceptional, particularly an ethereal cod dish. The saucing was, as always, complex and beautifully complemented each fish. The atmosphere wasn't as good as it has been before and I think can be reliant on how full the restaurant is (it was only half full) and your fellow diners. Funnily enough, we thought that the American couple on one table asking for a wine that was "like a rich California Cabernet" were typical tourists with no idea about the delicacy of the cooking or about variety in wines, but then the French table next to us asked for a full-bodied red as well. (The only difference was how loudly and in what language they asked.) The bad thing about La Table d'Aki is the wine list, which is too amateur for the cooking and doesn't list the name of the producer for some of the 10 or so wines. Does anyone know if you can bring your own wine here for a corkage fee?
In de Wulf:
This was our big splurge. I won't go into too much detail but thought I'd briefly describe the experience as the cost dictated the kind of restaurants we ate at in Paris and our going to Alex Croquet in Lille. The tasting menu had some excellent dishes but overall was slightly disappointing given our high expectations. I think we might have been unlucky because the "main" course in particular, a five-week aged duck, was simply not to our taste. We had expected the cooking to be more Michel Bras but it seemed more Mugaritz, with some dishes that pushed the limits of palatability. The breakfast, however, was wonderful, more of the incredible bread from the night before, and the dining room and bedroom were very pleasant.
Alex Croquet in Lille:
Had high hopes for the pastries and breads here but wasn't amazed. The breads (Pain Zébulon and Pain Paulette) were certainly good but not in the same league as the bread at In de Wulf. A chocolate eclair was dreadful: soggy pastry, cloying filling, a far cry from Jacques Genin. The "pudding" (similar to a bread-and-butter pudding, with candied fruits) and kouign-amann were good but we wouldn't rush to schlep them and the breads to the train station and onto London again.