I am very seasonal in my restaurant preferences. The restaurants I like in the winter are not the same I like in the summer or spring. So, when is your visit to Paris ? And where are you staying ? Although non-French foodie sources make it seem like there is just a handful of recommendable restaurants, there is such an abundance of great restos in Paris that the place just around the corner could be just as good or better than the one touted in some English-language list of “best” restaurants on the other side of the city.
For many of us Parisians, Septime is indeed a has-been but it is, I imagine, a fine American-in-Paris touristic experience and far better known to folks back in the USA than dozens and dozens (and dozens) of excellent alternatives that we locals prefer. And a great place for making new friends with other American tourists. I should add that my dislike of Septime is almost entirely based on the vibe rather than the starworthy but hardly life-changing cuisine.
I wouldn’t describe many tasting menus as “heavy”. But they are very long. Visitors on short stays in Paris could find that the 2 or 3 hours spent consuming 5- or 6 (or more)-course meals a wee bit fatiguing if too often. I for one can only really enjoy a “menu dégustation” once a week at most.
For Sunday, have a look at ChoCho in the 10th, Flocon in the 5th, Le Goncourt in the 11th, Le Grand Bain in Belleville/ 20th, Pétrelle in the 9th, Les Enfants Rouge (not to be confused with the covered market of the same name) on rue Beauce/ 3rd, Le Chardenoux in the 11th, Amarante in the 12th, Jones in the 11th, Dilia (modern Italian with French twists) in Ménilmontant/ 20th, Café Campagnon in the 2nd, Café du Coin in the 11th, Le Mary Celeste in the trendy upper 3rd, Racines (updated/ creative Sardinian/ Italian) in the Passage des Panoramas in the 2nd, La Halle aux Grains in the 1st. I can guess at your style but not sure and so I have included suggestions ranging from hip to trendy to plutocratic but all with excellent cuisine.
In Cognac, I really like Poulpette and, judging from the reviews (in French), it’s an opinion widely shared by locals and visitors. The only minus for foreign tourists is that it is located in a quietly provincial, ordinary neighbourhood rather than the cutesy Vieux Cognac.
Bordeaux, I visit 6 or 7 times a year and know it well. The food scene is extraordinary, the city is vibrant, and its residents really know how to practice l’art de vivre. For an expense-account or special occasional, I recommend (fulsomely) Le Saint James in Bouliac just on the other side of the river. The setting, in a Jean Nouvel designed hotel and conference complex, is extraordinary and, unlike most Michelin-starred places, no old-farty plutocratic vibe but rather a sense that life is good. I should add that I only go in good weather to take advantage of the terrace and views over Bordeaux.
I’m not an earnest foodie and would probably choose a vibe that reflects time and place more than exquisite food on the plate in dull lifeless surroundings. In Bordeaux, Brasserie Bordeaux gives me what I am looking for even though I don’t have a huge enthusiasm for trad cuisine. For more modern cuisine, Ressources… but oops, just awarded a Michelin star which will certainly raise prices and perhaps change the clientele which, pre-star, was usually very and enjoyably Bordelais.
And if you somehow find yourself in Médoc wine-country, Le Lion d’Or in Arcins represents the spirits of time and place like few other restos do. Very trad cuisine, a cast of regulars of owners and workers from nearby wineries, no pretensions to be anything other than what it is, a near perfect representation of “terroir”.