Dinner at Jules Verne
This was to be a dinner paid for by the unexpected redundancy payment put on the table by my boss when I suggested I resign. Mind you, I was going to resign anyway, as we had already booked our holiday in France for much longer than the 5 weeks leave I had officially applied for. The redundancy was a bonus that allowed us some extravagances which would otherwise not have been possible.
To get into this restaurant you need to book about three months in advance. You apply through a fairly impersonal on-line process, but we did send an email later, asking for a table with a view as we had several things to celebrate; my 60th, retirement and the end (almost) of the French holiday.
So we set off, all dolled up, to the Eiffel Tower. We were greeted and our reservation checked at the bottom of the private leg of the tower and whisked up to just above the second stage in a lift with a view: two views actually, one on the metalwork and one out to the vistas of Paris. We were greeted by about twenty waiters all in dark suits as we were led through the restaurant to a beautiful corner table with a view out onto Trocadero and the river with its cruise boats. We sat just above the second observation deck of the tower.
The restaurant is in rich chocolate colours with russet trim, cantilevered russet chairs, or banquettes in chocolate leather, white table cloths and napkins in neutral linen about the size of a small bed-sheet. The table was set with unusual ceramic plates in white with irregular hexagons on the bottom, which they turned over to reveal a white show plate. The knife and fork on the table when we arrived looked suitable for keyhole surgery, but they were removed and more suitable cutlery was provided for each course. All in the name of showmanship.
The menu was not extensive but almost anyone could have eaten well, perhaps vegetarians excluded. The emphasis was on quality ingredients sourced from the best places in France. I ordered asparagus and poached egg, followed by rack of milk fed lamb. Nick ordered pea soup with spider crab and Bresse chicken with crayfish. That is bare bones description and of course the presentation was exceptional.
While ordering we were offered little cheese puffs, light and delicate. After ordering we were brought an oval glass with tiny cubes of ham, cucumber, melon, tomato and crisp croutons, each cube about the size of dice cut in four. The waiter poured a little jug of tomato gazpacho over this. It was most refreshing. Three types of bread rolls were offered. We ordered a bottle of Chablis to drink with the meal, but not the wine that cost E4000. We thought we would give that a miss this time.
My asparagus and poached egg also included several crayfish tails and avocado as well as little slices of veal sweetbreads. It was delicious but perhaps overly fussy and had a few too many flavours. Nick’s pea soup was a shallow soup plate with some tiny salad leaves topped with spider crab and peas and surrounded with a foam. The soup was poured around this. Nick finished everything, including the salad which is something for him.
The lamb was tiny and the waiter was at pains to point out that it had been roasted on a turning skewer and was therefore very juicy, which it was. There were tiny little rib cutlets and then a roll of boneless loin. It was served with a transparent rectangle about half A4 size standing upright. This turned out to be strips of potato somehow fused together to make the biggest crisp. Fun, pretty and yummy! Nick’s Bresse chicken was rolled and roasted and presented with several crayfish tails and the crustacean sauce poured around it. He was a good boy and left the skin, as did I, but everything else was eaten with relish, though he couldn’t quite finish all the sauce.
We were content by this time to sit and look at the view as the sun set
and also watch the amazing number of people who brought young children to the restaurant. A great way to see Paris and the kids were really well behaved but the cost obviously didn’t faze them. I heard one waiter saying that one family party owned a large hotel in Paris, so that may explain things.
Having been prompted to look for the dessert that appears like a rusty bolt, I ordered that and Nick the deconstructed Black Forest Cake. This came in a martini glass, a layer of choc mousse, topped with macerated cherries, whole cherries and Chantilly. On the side was a perfect looking choc macaroon which held cherry confiture and ice cream. All the ingredients, just arranged differently. Mine was in two parts as well. On the plate was not a bolt but a large industrial nut to screw onto a bolt, a play on the idea of it having come off the tower itself which is actually a brownish colour up close and personal. The “bolt” looked metallic and the centre was filled with dark chocolate sauce. Under the metallic coat was a chocolate ganache on a hazelnut praline base. Incredibly rich and yummy. On the side, a dish of hazelnut icecream and some caramelised nuts, basically to cut the richness of the choc “bolt”. I was determined that the metallic look of the covering needed to be explained. Finally I had it confirmed that gold leaf is mixed through to give the sheen of metal. Very clever!
We were also given mignadises, little cakes, macaroons, marshmallows and choc cubes. We stretched our time out nibbling occasionally as the tower lit up with a million stars flickering, then went a deep blue.
On Bastille day, our last in France, there was a parade in the street and fireworks at Trocadero, opposite the tower. What a fabulous finale to the French part of our holiday and what a great way that dinner was to celebrate several milestones in my life. It was nicely ironic that the redundancy paid for it all.