The reservation for Le Jules Verne restaurant was made long before I booked flights and accommodation. After all, it’s not every day that one celebrates a milestone anniversary in their favourite city and chooses to dine at its iconic landmark, at an altitude of 125 metres with the city of lights sparkling at your feet.
Famous French writer Guy de Maupassant may have hated the Eiffel Tower so much that he ate at its restaurant daily so he couldn’t see it but I have always held great respect for la grande dame de fer. I had ascended its heights three times out of five visits to Paris. But on a cold November evening, stepping through le Pilier Sud, exclusively reserved for the restaurant, a different journey was about to begin.
Greeted at the entrance by what I term un accueil chaleureux or, a warm welcome, I was surprised that we were addressed in English. As a Francophile, I had spoken to the welcome desk in French. But it soon became apparent as more guests arrived that the surnames and countries of origin dictated the languages spoken by the multi-lingual staff.
The light in the pilier was very dim and soon our eyes adjusted so we could enjoy the spectacle that Paris was to offer from above. We were escorted to the restaurant in a private lift and no sooner the doors opened, there was a frisson of excitement as we stepped into the dining room and were greeted by a contingent of service staff in elegant uniforms designed by the luxury label Lanvin 15 Faubourg.
The maître d’hôtel made a discrete mention of our special celebration as he showed us to our window table. Paris in all her night sparkling glory extended before us, from the skyscrapers of La Defense all the way to La Tour Montparnasse. The moon was low in the horizon and rose above the Seine river that twisted and curved under its bridges. Pont Alexandre III, our special bridge, was ablaze with lights. Clearly, we had been given the best table in the establishment.
We started the evening with a Gourmantic ritual. Two glasses of LarmandierChampagne were toasted as we studied the menu. Like our experiences at La Tour d’Argent and Le Grand Vefour, I was presented with a menu that did not list prices. We decided to leave ourselves in the hands of Alain Ducasse with chef Pascal Feraud of the Hotel Negresco and Lucas Carton fame. We choose the menu dégustation, with matching wines for Mr G. Not being able to overindulge that evening, I opted for wine by the glass as recommended by sommelier Roberto Amadei.
I scanned the dining room with its contemporary and elegant lines, ornate plates and cutlery by known designers. I fell in love with the design of the white plates that were presented upside down on crisp white linen tables.
A small plate of bouchées au parmesan was presented. The puff pastry balls with parmesan were light with a mild cheese flavour. An amuse-bouche followed, a rich velouté of duck with walnuts, an enjoyable combination of ingredients and texture.
Mr G and I were dining at Le Jules Verne as an anniversary celebration and not for a Gourmantic write-up. I cast my notebook aside and decided it wasn’t apt to take photographs. But once we sense a relaxed ambience in the restaurant from the waiting staff, we simultaneously decided to photograph of the dishes but refrained from taking food and wine notes.
The first dish was foie gras de canard confit, gelée fine à la figue noire, brioche toastée, foie gras with black fig jelly, toasted brioche. I loved the richness of the colours and the dish satisfies my passion for eating foie gras whenever it is on the menu.
The second dish was gratin moelleux de macaroni truffé, jus de veau perlé, a truffled macaroni gratin served on a pearly veal juice. The tubular pasta is filled with slices of black truffles and presented as a crown, topped with a shaving of parmesan, a divine taste for something as humble as pasta.
Nothing beats dining at the Eiffel Tower when every hour on the hour, the spectacular light show takes place. There was nothing between us and the lights outside but a pane of thick glass. Mesmerised by the display before us, the stroboscopic effects were felt inside the dining room.
The next dish was blanc de turbot à la plancha, façon Dugléré, a lightly pan-sautéed turbot, complemented by a fish mousse Dugléré style. So far, my favourite dish for its lightness, elegance and presentation.
Next, we were presented with noisettes de chevreuil aux poivres rôties en cocotte, légumes et fruits d’automne, sauce grand veneur. The medallions of venison were juicy and tender, served a little rare. The accompanying peppers were casserole-roasted, the autumn vegetables and fruits provided a sweet richness to the dish against the peppery grand veneur sauce.
After a pause to savour and digest the courses so far, the first dessert arrived. But all I saw were the beaming smiles of the service staff as they delivered a plate with a lit-up candle and wished us a happy anniversary on behalf of Le Jules Verne.
We made a wish and blew out our candles while admiring the cursive chocolate Joyeux Anniversaire writing against the white plate. Overcome by emotions, I cannot recall the taste of the fin palet fraises des bois/passion, sorbet yaourt/coco, the wild strawberry and passionfruit shortbread with yoghurt and coconut sorbet, except that we tucked into it with smiles all round.
The last course was l’écrou au chocolat praliné croustillant, glace noisette. It was the piece de résistance from pastry chef Jean-Baptiste Priolet. The tower bolt, just like many of those on the structure outside was a dark chocolate praline with a metallic sheen. Liquid chocolate filled the part that made up the central nut. It was served with hazelnut ice cream as an aside. One bite of the rich and decadent chocolate and I was overcome with a taste sensation I have to repeat in my lifetime.
We chose to end the meal with a digestif, a Lemorton 68 Calvados as we marvelled at the view above Paris and enjoyed each other’s company.
But it didn’t end there. Three more after-desserts were brought to the table. Rich truffled chocolates, coconut marshmallows and a trio of desserts that included delectable macarons.
It wasn’t easy to leave and bid Paris bonne nuit from 125 metres. The view was a tableau that will remain etched in memory for years to come.
In the year when La Tour Eiffel celebrated her 120th birthday, and Astérix and Obélix celebrated 50 years, we joined them by commemorating our wedding anniversary at an iconic restaurant in the city that captured my heart.
Le Jules Verne
Avenue Gustave Eiffel
75007 Paris France
For more suggestions on where to eat in Paris, don’t miss our Paris Restaurant and Bistro Guide.
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