The build up to eating at Le Jules Verne is as important as the meal itself. The Eiffel Tower looms proudly over Paris, with the middle section, some 123 metres up, visible from every street corner. From the moment you wake up, to the time you enter through the metal detector, in to the private elevator, and up it to airy dining room with its angular lines, it’s there, as unavoidable and imposing as the army of servers that wait on the slightest of moves.
And what of the food itself? Does it really matter? The reality is that the three month waiting list to get a decent table here has very little to do with Alain Ducasse’s haute cuisine. The endless stream of camera phones snapping into the distance proves that they could serve the leftovers from a kebab shop here and folk would still pay a fortune for the view. That view though, it is very impressive.
And credit must go to the French for this for putting one of the most celebrated chefs of all time here and in turn, turning it in to a destination restaurant itself. Put this tower in London and watch them stick a Jamie’s Italian in to feed the hordes with the “most pucka asparagus eva”, whilst here, with no such bravado, was a “plate of vegetables” featuring asparagus steamed and also as a mousse, peas, and courgettes. The greens were off-set by a lemon puree and dehydrated orange slices can added just the right amount of acidity. In lesser hands this could have been instantly forgettable, though, here, it was a vibrant remainder of the bounty that late spring can offer.
There was more success with a pressed piece of veal shank, its meat dense and caramelised from an age in the oven. There was more perfectly judged acidity – this time from the sort of tomatoes we can only dream of in England. The previous starter of French onion soup saw a beef stock poured over a set onion mouse to create a starter equally comforting and elegant. Desserts of strawberry and lime vacherin and a chocolate/nut tower were every bit as decadent as you would expect from a Ducasse kitchen. Both of these could easily have graced one of his three starred establishments.
Still, despite this, Le Jules Verne is far from the perfect dining destination. Artichoke barigoule failed at the reinterpretation that the onion soup had been so successful at by being under seasoned and a pre-starter of beef jelly with raw vegetables and carrot foam was every bit as bad as it sounds. And then there is the price, for which there is no really no ignoring. Our lunch, three courses with a bottle of Sancerre from the lower end of the list, came to nearly three hundred English pounds. Go for dinner and you’re looking at double that. Some may call it a rip-off and to those I would be inclined to agree, after all it is hard to justify the experience of paying ten euro for a bottle of Evian water. In hindsight we probably should have spent that money on lunch at a flawless three star with a view of the Eiffel, rather than a one star restaurant in a floorless tower overlooking the roof of one of the cities many three star restaurants. But hey, we’re tourists that just jumped the queue and for an hour or so it felt amazing. You can’t put a price on that, can you? If you can, you bet your bottom Euro it’s going to be a big one.