Q: What is it? A: A Michelin-starred tourist-trap located on the 2nd platform of the Eiffel Tower.
It starts out as quite a funky experience.
Entrance is through the southern pillar of the Eiffel Tower. Think “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” although this journey takes off in a different direction, inside the pillar. Some 125 meters up, the machinery stops and you are whisked out on the second floor of what for decades held the title ”tallest structure in the world.” It’s a spectacular location. No doubt. You are now in the hands of The Alain, which of course refers to M. Alain Ducasse, who has added his (supposedly) magic-touch-concerning-anything-yummy to the restaurant. When you sit down at the table, expectations are higher than a kite.
Then something happens…
…and it’s not good. This restaurant has an 88 € appetizer on the menu. Since 2009, this restaurant boasts a star in the famed guide published by the French manufacturer of tyres. This restaurant has a staff of 105… Everything is in place for something amazing.
The crowd is mixed, to say the least. The stiffer bizniz folks, treating foreign bizniz guests to lunch, sit next to a t-shirt clad young couple having the meal of their life, (around dessert, one of the t-shirts proposes to the other t-shirt). But it doesn’t feel amazing. Pre-amuse bouche, I realize that there’s zero atmosphere. The massive staff, (they’re everywhere – especially when you make your way to the restrooms), are like soldiers on duty, doing the things that they have been practicing in drills. The young and very attractive waitress is almost throwing forks and knifes out. Frankly, my dear, she simply does not give a damn. Hey you, Michelin-starred restaurateur! What happened here?
Food-wise it’s not a huge show, until…
The appetizer does hardly move the needle of my Stoke-o-Meter™. The main course of veal is fine, but just OK. Not more. I’m with good friends so I am not exactly unhappy, but I can’t but start to reflect over the standards of the famed tyre manufacturer guide… Then suddenly… the turning point! No, the attractive waitress doesn’t transform into a charming person but she performs the duty of handing out a number desserts. Which are to die for. Honestly.
I later google the name of the Le Jules Verne pastry chef: Christophe Devoille. He is the man. He really is. He earned his wings at La Côte Basque in New York and then at Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. M. Devoille and the pastry team work wonders with the experience of Le Jules Verne. The flavors and the freshness of the composition of strawberry and rhubarb, (with vanilla sorbet on top), kick some serious behind; the macarons not visible on the menu are as top notch as macarons will ever get. Then… as a little post-dessert, two bowls of apple mashmallows arrive. They don’t look very sophisticated, but my sensory system sends happy signals to the brain. Fantastic stuff.
The food experience comes secondary.
Food is not Le Jules Verne’s reason-to-be. Come here because of the spectacular location, the funky elevator ride and the fact that you are able to look down on Paris, which in itself is a rare experience. In defense of M. Ducasse, it should be mentioned that this is one of a very few restaurants located inside a tourist attraction, that is actually capable of serving you something above average, albeit at a hefty pricetag. And as you’ve probably understood by now, the desserts are heavenly. In fact, to enjoy them I’d gladly climb the 668 steps to the 2nd level, should the elevator ever be out of order.
Le Jules Verne
Champ-de-Mars, 2nd level (Tour Eiffel)
Avenue Gustave Eiffel