We have been in Paris for over five months now and we had not eaten at the Alain Ducasse restaurant, Le Jules Verne, in the second stage of the Eiffel Tower. We decided to remedy the situation and booked for lunch. The Jules Verne is the gourmet restaurant of the Eiffel Tower. Located on the second floor, it has an exceptional view of Paris. Taken over in 2007, after being closed for a while, by Alain Ducasse, it was renovated in a high tech setting dreamt up by Patrick Jouin, overlooking the City of Lights. With chef Pascal Féraud (formerly of Louis XV in Monaco and London’s Spoon), Alain Ducasse has created a resolutely modern French menu, devoid of all pretension, focused exclusively on pleasure. Sauces and pastries are prepared in a kitchen below the Champ de Mars before being whisked up the elevator to the kitchen, which is overseen by the young chef Féraud.
The main reason we booked was to once again experience the Michelin starred cuisine of Alain Ducasse. The Monégasque chef is one of the most highly respected chefs in the world, he remains the only chef to have had two different restaurants in the top 5 of the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Le Louis XV (no. 3 in 2003) and Spoon Dex Iles (no.5 in 2002) and has two restaurants listed in Les Grandes Tables du Monde. With a galaxy of stars to his name, Ducasse was the first chef ever to simultaneously hold three Michelin stars at three different restaurants in Paris, Monaco and New York – his three-starred restaurants now include: Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. Worth noting, restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée will close on August 2nd 2013 to reopen in Spring 2014. Alain Ducasse will move to Le Meurice in early September 2013.
Of course another big reason to visit is the view. We had requested a window seat but as you can see above, the window seats are set for groups of more than two, I wish they would have told us. You get up to the restaurant by a private elevator and they allow you down to the observation deck to take pictures after the meal.
Ducasse’s menu wisely doesn’t try to draw attention away from the fact you’re in the actual Eiffel Tower for dinner. Partly, of course, this is because his kitchen has to operate under some fairly stringent restrictions (no naked flames, for instance: no-one wants their last meal to be Tour Eiffel flambée). A webbed presentation plate that matches the ceiling and surgical-looking cutlery are soon whisked away, and replaced by plain crockery, circular with the logo cut into the edge. We both had a coup of champagne to start the meal. We decided on the 90€ déjeuner menu and I had the wine pairing for 125€.
The meal began with an exceptional brioche and even better butter. I have had French buerre before but this was really good.
The amuse bouche was a cucumber gellée with bits of radish, cucumber, tiny croutons and crème fraîche. For me, cucumber gelée always conjures up tastes of the classic green almonds or an equivalent crunch. This had a lot of gelée and not enough crunch. That is just my take however, the gelée was delicious and perhaps this presentation would have been even better as a cucumber gazpacho.
For our entrées, I had the cold boned chicken and duck foie gras, purslane, toasted country bread and Lisa had the salmon marinated with lemon/caviar/vodka with mimosa garnish. Both were absolutely delicious.
For our plats, I had the saddle of farm rabbit, tender potato and Swiss chard and Lisa had the fillet of John Dory cooked in a cocotte, spring vegetables and condiment. Both were delicious, I love rabbit and while this was good, it was not particularly different than my previous experience although I did think there was a morel mushroom on the plate. Lisa's John Dory was perfectly cooked but my John Dory at Oxo was over a potato and lobster mash which was a bit better.
For dessert we both had the chocolate/raspberry palet which consisted of filled raspberries surrounded by chocolate with a raspberry granita. They also provided a selection of pastries and I particularly liked the “shovel shaped” spoon for the granita. In what seems to be a signature for Michelin restaurants we also had French truffles and fresh Pâte de Guimauve or French Marshmallows. The “French truffle” is made with fresh cream and chocolate and then rolled into cocoa or nut powder unlike the American version with a hard shell.
Marshmallow probably came first into being as a medicinal substance, since the mucilaginous extracts come from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, which were used as a remedy for sore throats. The use of marshmallow to make a sweet dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Confectioners in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it, to make a confection similar to modern marshmallow. The confection was made locally, by the owners of small sweet shops. They would extract the sap from the mallow plant's root, and whip it themselves. The process was labor-intensive and Pâte de Guimauve was regarded as a delicacy for the well-to-do. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers thought of using egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. The Pâte de Guimauve at the Jules Verne were very light and sweet with no hard exterior as in the American version. In any case, it was a nice finish to a delicious lunch.
So what is the final verdict on the Jules Verne? First, I think the meal is very good value for the meal and of course the view. It costs 5€ per person for the stairs and 8.50€ per person for the elevator to the second stage at the Eiffel Tower. That does not count the aggravation you will encounter waiting in line to purchase the tickets. The first floor restaurant, “58 Tour Eiffel”, includes a lift ticket with a reservation and serves a picnic style lunch for 38.60€. You pick out what you want and they bring it to the table. They have a welcome desk between the north and east pillars on the ground to pick up the ticket. It is a great way to pass up the line and have lunch. While we have eaten at the “58 Tour Eiffel” for lunch, we have not gone for dinner which I hear is very good.
The experience at the Jules Verne is completely different, private entrance, private elevator and better view. At least for lunch the food is also miles apart. The service is polite for the most part, the setting cannot be matched and the food is gourmet delicious. Almost everyone on TripAdvisor loved the view and more importantly, the food. It recieved a 2012 Travelers Choice Award. For me, the food was very good given the price. If however, you are looking for an excellent meal in Paris at the Eiffel Tower, this is your place.
Official Website: http://www.alain-ducasse.com/en/restaurant/le-jules-verne
Marshmallow Plant: http://flowers4u.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/candy-plant-in-name-only/