There are several ways to go up the Eiffel Tower. You can join the snaking queue to take the elevators, opt for the shorter line for a long climb up the tower by feet, or you could, like us, head for Le Jules Verne’s private lift, complete with its cute, suited elevator attendant, and be whisked away to the restaurant, a good 123 metres above ground, for lunch on Paris’s greatest icon.
It was the godparents’ 35th wedding anniversary and they wanted to treat us to a memorable meal. The husband and I wrestled between choosing the 3 starred doyens of french gastronomy and Le Jules Verne, where food quality would be secondary. We were of course also skeptical about destination dining. But then, we were reassured by Alain Ducasse’s involvement in the restaurant, and honestly, there is no contest between dining in a chandeliered palace v. dining atop the one and only Tour Eiffel.
The dining room is split into 2 halves, with our table placed in the middle of the half looking out towards Tour Montparnasse and Champs de Mars, while the other had more exciting views of the river. The dark-colored room was decorated in an austere and modern fashion. It was also rather crowded, though the noise level was never much of a problem. They staff a full kitchen some 100 metres above ground, and it’s amazing to see, when we went into the kitchen with the chef’s blessing, how they managed to pack more than 20 dicing, slicing, sauteeing, bruleeing cooks in those tight confines.
We chose from the weekday menu with wine pairings for the men, and as we waited on our entrees, we munched on a variety of good, warm bread and an amuse bouche of salmon, citrus and white asparagus cream.
It took me a lot of self-discipline to not order foie gras as my entree as I had OD-ed on it at Chez Dumonet the night before, but it was to my dismay that none of my dining companions picked it! So the 6 of us split the 2 remaining feel-good appetizers, and my sense is that I would have enjoyed the foie gras a lot more. The salmon dish was a miss and strange to my palate, the base of cheese overpowering the rest of the dish. It took me time to warm up to my bowl of cold cream of peas, but as I dug beyond the thinly sliced crudites and mixed the ingredients more, it got a lot better, the taste and textural interplay of the vegetal and crustacean sweetness quite pleasing.
Mains were better received, with the exception of mum’s fish, with turned out bland and overcooked. She had more fun picking out the perfectly cooked vegetables from my chicken fricassée, the meat juicy and flavorful. The men, especially my godfather who’s suffering from tooth issues, took to the tender veal knuckle, served with a robust side of bone marrow. Perhaps the dishes were more homey than haute, but they were well executed and appreciated.
The onslaught of dessert is next, in the traditional mold and precisely made. Mum and Godma welcomed the light and tart flavors of their fruit shortcake, while the caramel and chocolate flavors were well-balanced and neither too heavy nor sweet for my dessert. There was an added touch of table side service for the savarin, a yeast ring-shaped baba au rhum of sorts. The server first arrived with 2 bottles of armagnac for the men to choose which to douse the cake with, and then poured a sinful amount of softly whipped cream over it. Yum.
With the excellent coffee came the petit fours, the chocolate truffles and coconut marshmallows surefire winners, though the passionfruit creme filled choux won the originality and best in taste awards. But the sugar onslaught did not stop here! Upon getting our coats, the ladies were gifted with packs of madeleines, Proustian memories of our lunch.
Though the food was only slightly above average, the service, views, and not to mention the bonus of going to the viewing platform via an exclusive lift and entryway made this a lunch to remember!
Le Jules Verne
Tour Eiffel, 75007 Paris