After being completely redesigned and redecorated by the talented Paris-based interior architect Aline Asmar d’Amman, this celebrated restaurant at the Eiffel Tower reopened at the end of August with a new menu by chef Frédéric Anton.
Anton, who has worked at the celebrated Le Pré Catelan in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne since 1997 and held three Michelin stars at the restaurant since 2007, is a supremely skilled chef with a flawless culinary technicity and a vocation for subtlety that makes his cooking both incredibly sensual and elegant.
Manning the kitchen of Le Jules Verne, however, is a huge logistical challenge, since no gas is allowed in the Eiffel Tower. Much of the actual cooking at the restaurant is done in an underground kitchen at the foot of the tower, and the sky-high galley is really more of a garnishing and serving station. Doubtless it takes some time to master these constraints, which is why I’d be inclined to give Anton the benefit of the doubt after a recent dinner here.
Before going any further, I’d emphasise that you absolutely must request a window table – preferably in the dining room facing Les Invalides – when booking, and emphatically refuse to be seated at a counter table overlooking the core of the tower. The excellence of Anton’s cooking to one side, the main reason for dining at the Jules Verne is for the supremely beautiful views of Paris, which are at their most romantic in the evening.
Arriving for dinner on a warm night in early September, the golden embroidery of the French capital’s streets unfolded below us as we sipped a glass of champagne and contemplated the constantly evolving spectacle of ships on the Seine.
Choosing the five-course €190 prix-fixe menu over the seven-course €230 one, our meal began with a Granny Smith apple-flavoured zéphyr (a soft meringue dome) served over a small helping of delicately curried crabmeat. Although pleasant enough, the overall effect was actually rather underwhelming… While the silky creme Dubarry – a richly flavoured cauliflower cream with a flan of baby leeks – that followed was exquisite, the fresh salt-cod was seriously over-salted and the accompanying jus aux épices oddly insipid.
Happily, our main course, a free-range chicken breast poached in foie gras bouillon with wild mushrooms and a magnificent sauce Albuféra – made with duck foie gras, cognac, white port, madeira, chicken bouillon and cream – was superb. The raspberry and chocolate desserts that followed left little memory, however.
At the end of the meal, we finished up an excellent bottle of Savennières, which had paired perfectly with this menu, and enjoyed chatting with the young French sommelier, who had just returned to Gaul after working in Nottingham for several years.
Despite the curiously uneven quality of our dinner and the slightly rough dining room service, we enjoyed Le Jules Verne and, as the new team and chef Anton settle in, I expect it will become a restaurant that’s every bit as magnificent as Le Pré Catelan.
Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, avenue Gustave-Eiffel, Paris 7th. Tel: +33 (0)1 45 55 61 44. www.restaurants-toureiffel.com
From France Today magazine