Birthday lunch at the Jules Verne on the Eiffel Tower
Monday, January 21 was my 60th birthday which was one of the reasons we were in Paris in January. Actually, we don’t really need a reason.
I had booked two special meals for us that day starting with lunch at the Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. While a restaurant like this may seem like the ultimate tourist trap, it is done very, very well. It’s managed by the Alain Ducasse organization which oversees top-end restaurants and inns around the world and know how to keep an eye on the details. Here’s what Ducasse says, “The Jules Verne has no other ambition than to remain true to itself: the most beautiful place in Paris to enjoy all the pleasures of contemporary and accessible French cuisine “. That’s about right….
There’s a smart reservation policy in place given that it’s a global attraction – they accept online bookings only. So, no frantic long distance phone calls or mishaps. We booked months in advance and it worked out perfectly.
We woke up and had a small breakfast at the apartment. Took our time getting ready. From our apartment, we could walk to the tower in about 20 minutes. It was overcast with lots of snow on the ground. As we got to the tower, we saw signs that said the tower was closed due to the snow…. but not the restaurant. The restaurant has its own elevator. Later, the rest of the tower opened too.
We had booked for the earliest time, 12:15, and had told them it was a special occasion and requested a window seat. They don’t promise window seats, but given we were the first ones up there, it was easy to seat us with a view east towards the heart of Paris with the Seine curving off to the right.
The whole experience was everything you could hope for. Service was friendly, very polished and helpful. I had previewed the menu which was similar to the one on the current site, so we knew what to expect. The 3 courses were 98E, or with wine 125E. We chose the “with wines” option (well, hello), and started with a glass of champagne. (A nice touch – since they have a few champagnes on the menu, they bring the bottle to the table to show you what they’re pouring.)
Lunch started with an amuse bouche of creamed vegetables in a fancy little shot glass which was very tasty. Our choices: for appetizers, duck foie gras ravioli and endive with ham, Comté cheese and black truffle. For the main courses, beef cheeks and venison, and for desserts, two sorbets on diced mango and baba with armagnac and Chantilly cream. Wines were premier cru Chardonnay with the first course and a Pomerol with the main course.
The whole experience was flawless. If you go there and order the baba with armagnac dessert, be prepared to make a choice: which armagnac would you like poured over it? They bring you two. I should have asked to taste them both first before deciding, oh excuse me, could I have another taste…. but I chose one, and promptly had it buried under freshly whipped cream. Delicious!
We ate slowly, trying to stretch out our time. They didn’t rush us. It was other-worldly and we felt very, very lucky.
Finally we were finished, happy and ready for the afternoon.
From the Eiffel Tower we knew we could walk over the Pont Alexandre III to the Grand Palais to see a big Edward Hopper show. Yes, an American artist, but like so many Americans, he had spent formative years in Paris. So this made sense, and it was a perfect way to walk off a special lunch.
Dinner, on a boat in the Seine near the Notre Dame was still to come.