Ah… Paris … ah the Eiffel Tower … ah Le Jules Verne Restaurant.
With the Eiffel Tower opening up, I’m recalling a gourmet dinner at the lofty Le Jules Verne Restaurant – albeit 12 years ago.
A two-month wait, a whopping $500 set price menu – was it worth it?
Qui – especially for those iconic inside out views of Paris.
The restaurant is 125 metres above the ground and on entering you soon see why Paris is known as the city of lights – a twinkling panorama is revealed from all windows.
You feel as if you are floating in space inside a giant Meccano set. Until tonight, nuts, bolts and rivets had never before captured my imagination or featured in a dinner conversation.
Our dinner for six was booked via the website two months ago, when I surrendered my credit card details as security just in case I didn’t turn up. A figure equivalent to the cost of a return economy seat from Sydney to Paris would be charged if we were no shows.
Email instructions advise us to meet at the tower’s south pillar at 7pm to be escorted to the restaurant in a private lift.
The restaurant, named after the visionary novelist, was opened by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse.
It’s no easy task, running a restaurant in the sky, considering space is so limited and the weight of all equipment is monitored with painstaking precision.
There’s an air of anticipation as we step from the lift into the chic chocolate-brown dining room to be greeted by a regiment of staff dressed in uniforms designed by luxury label Lanvin 15 Faubourg. I detect just a little table envy from other diners as we settle next to a window.
The dining room is a work of designer Patrick Jouin, who worked with Ducasse to bring a sensual touch to the technology and materials of the tower.
Through a honeycomb wall you catch glimpses of the well-orchestrated staff in white chef’s hats working in the kitchen. Look up and the fibre-optic network on the ceiling recalls the interlacing streets of Paris.
The menu is supervised by head chef Pascal Feraud and is rooted in French tradition but with a contemporary focus. The impressive wine list features 430 of the finest French wines from the country’s greatest regions, focusing on Burgundy, the Rhone and Bordeaux, with long-standing names sharing the limelight with young winegrowers.
No humble ice buckets here. Bottles are kept in insulated compartments at optimum temperatures inside consoles integrated into the dining room.
We select the degustation menu of five courses. Tonight, it is Brittany lobster with tangy young vegetables, lightly creamy pea soup with spider crab and caviar, pan-seared turbot with girolles, a thick medallion of veal and potatoes followed by a raspberry and lime sorbet. And then the ice-cream tower bolt.
Every course is sleekly presented with great aplomb and we are never disappointed. Ingredients come from all over France and the potatoes and mushrooms from the market gardens of Ile de France.
The grand finale is l’ecrou au chocolat, a decadent dessert made in the shape of a nut and bolt similar to the ones I have been staring at all night.
The dark chocolate praline with hazelnut ice-cream is a fitting finale to a grand night of dining high in the sky at Le Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower.
So, does Le Jules Verne deserve its place among the suggested 20 food experiences you must have before you die, as once suggested by food critic Terry Durack?
I think so and I want to go back. But the food and wine are dwarfed by the magnificent views and the experience of just being inside this Paris icon that is one of our top dining experiences ever.
As we leave we are presented with a small bag of fragrant chestnut honey, vanilla and lemon zest madeleines – to enjoy tomorrow and relive the memories of a night in the Eiffel Tower.
I won’t ever forget it – nor the fact that there are 21/2 million rivets and 18,000 pieces of steel holding it all together.
Le Jules Verne is at Eiffel Tower Avenue, Gustave Eiffel, Paris. Phone: +33145 55 61 44. See lejulesverne-paris.com.