Friday, September 30, 2011

High dining in the city of lights ... and love

There will be no gluten for you madame, said our waiter when we celebrated our wedding anniversary at Le Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower.

Our waiter was prepared for my sans-gluten needs as booking online at the restaurant website allows you to indicate any special dietary needs.

Le Jules Verne was launched by restaurateur, entrepreneur and chef Alan Ducasse in 2007. It is named after the French writer of fantastic tales like '20,000 Leagues under the Sea', 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' and 'Around the World in 80 Days'.

Just as Jules Verne invites the reader to go on extraordinary adventures in his books, Alain Ducasse welcomes diners to the magical place that is the Jules Verne, which he describes as a French experiment of our time - 125 metres above the ground.

With head chef Pascal Feraud, Ducasse wishes Le Jules Verne to be, "the most beautiful place in Paris to enjoy the pleasure of a contemporary and accessible kitchen."

Located on the Eiffel Tower's second observation platform, you can take a tour here with Patrick Jouin, the designer of the restaurant.

Seated one table back from the window looking north-west to La Defense and the Arc de Triomphe, we appropriately started our lunch with a glass of French champagne.  As we sipped on pink Bruno Pallaird bubbly, we were served an aperitif of duck liver pate with banana and mango.

As jazz and showtime tunes played in the background we tucked into our entree of simmered Helixbernn French snails with delicate "velvety" of lettuce.

For the main I chose the roasted sea bass with braised leeks and gold caviar - no less - accompanied by a chardonnay from Burgundy. Bruce had the spit milk-fed lamb with tiny artichokes and pearl jus (not gluten-free), washed down with a pinot noir, also from Burgundy.

The meals were delicious - very colourful and full of flavour and texture.  There was a sense of theatre to the serving with sauces dramatically poured over the plate at the table and cutlery faced down until it was time for the appropriate course.

As there was no gluten for madame, my dessert choices were limited to strawberries with sherbet.

While this was lovely, the gluten-eating monsieur Bruce fared much better. As well as his dessert of strawberry/rhubarb tart with thyme and lemon ice cream, accompanying his coffee was a bowl of passionfruit marshmallows and a plate of chocolate profiteroles and macaroons.

"Can I have any of that monsieur," I enquired hopefully to our 'no gluten for madame' waiter. "No madame," he said shaking his head.  I consoled myself with a dessert wine from Jurancon near Toulouse.

The experience was completed with a visit to the viewing platform without having to queue up with all the other tourists.

Le Jules Verne was a culinary experience to remember and a special way to celebrate our anniversary. Bon apetite.