There are some restaurants that don’t have to worry about repeat bookings. Le Jules Verne, on one of the viewing decks of the Eiffel Tower, is a classic example.

Waiting in line for the tiny elevator that takes several minutes to climb the 130 metres or so to the deuxieme etage, the door controller is constantly turning people away who’ve wandered over to the south pillar of the great tower and thought it might be nice to have a snack – oh, and to avoid waiting for hours to get one of the public elevators. One inventive chap asked if he could go up to order some ‘take out’. Nice try. All were informed that bookings were being accepted for September.

Having ascended to the dizzy heights, Le Jules Verne (part of Alain Ducasse’s dining empire) is a huge restaurant, covering off the north, west and south facing sides of the tower. It’s indeed a panoramic view and on this particularly fine, final Friday in June the floor is packed.

Apparently you need to book way in advance to get a table by the window. Greedy Girl, still white knuckled after the painfully slow, jerky ride, was not disappointed to be shown to a table next to the one next to the window. Not quite the cafe on the 97th floor of Shanghai’s Park Hyatt but certainly far enough in the sky for her fear of heights to be well in evidence. Bring on the champagne.

Alain Ducasse, who oversees the menu at Le Jules Verne when not distracted by his eponymous restaurants at London’s Dorchester Hotel or in Paris at the Plaza Athenee, is a doyen of French cooking. Given his pedigree and despite Le Jules Verne being, undoubtedly, a tourist trap (the prospect of a feed was the only way gluttonous husband was going to agree to get anywhere near the Eiffel Tower), expectations were at least solid.

There were a smattering of French speakers dotted throughout the tables but overwhelmingly English of varying accents was spoken – dominated by Americans and Germans. The few French made observing the wait staff an interesting sport.

Buoyed by the presence of a lobster and ‘gold caviar’ dish, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband chose the six-course menu degustation. Greedy Girl asked for the fish course to be substituted. This brought the first of the frowns for the evening. It might be possible, our waiter opined, but he needed to check with the chef. No further correspondence was entered into so Greedy Girl assumed the chef gave a gallic shrug when the waiter told him the crazy Australian woman wanted langoustines instead of turbot.

Food sorted, we ordered a stunning bottle of champagne – a 1999 Pommery ‘cuvee Louise’. The sommelier approved. Whew.

Two amuse bouches were served. The first was a dish of cheese puffs. Not so cheesy. The second, an apple and cucumber jelly confection was outrageously plain. It would have made a great palate cleanser but as for ‘entertaining the mouth’? Nope.

On to the main event. First up was the lobster, served with a sabayon flavoured with lobster and the ‘gold caviar’. Gluttonous husband downed his with relish and pronounced it delightful. Greedy Girl found her lobster meat to be rather tough and missing the pop of salt caviar normally brings. The flavours, she concurred, were very good.

Next up was an artichoke dish. In Greedy Girl’s opinion, this was the highlight of the night. Three roasted, marinated baby artichokes were topped with foam and accompanied by a few daintily cubed vegetables. It was a very tasty, light and well balanced dish.

The next course was fish. Gluttonous husband had the turbot, ‘baked Duglere’. Adolphe Duglere’s claim to fame was as chef to the Rothschild family and founding Paris’ Cafe Anglais before he headed for the dinner table in the sky in the late 19th century. He was credited with inventing pommes Anna (more on that later) but, in this dish, the sauce named for him is essentially made up of shallots, onions and tomatoes. Gluttonous husband said it was OK, if a bit bland.

Greedy Girl had her substitute – roasted large Dublin Bay prawns (langoustines) with a medley of raw and cooked vegetables, the former consisting mainly of lettuce, the latter carrots. Three langoustines were served in the half-shell with a huge quantity of cubed vegetables and sprinklings of leaves, with a nice reduction made from the shells. The prawns were delectable but totally overwhelmed by the vegetables.

The final savoury offering was a sauteed thick medallion of veal with pommes Anna, a slurp of reduced cooking jus and a tiny green salad. The veal, quelle horreur, was overcooked and dry. The jus was flavoursome and the crunchy green fronds were a welcome addition. The pommes Anna was sliced potatoes formed into a crispy-edged cake. It was good – really the star of the plate which, if you think about it, is a bit sad.

Into the desserts. The first was a pistachio and wild strawberry soft cake. It was served with slices of fresh coconut, a coconut vanilla custard and a coconut-flavoured ice-cream. Greedy Girl, having had a long and unfortunate relationship with coconut ate around the edges. The strawberries were nice – tiny, tangy – but the pistachio had no real flavour.

Second dessert was a ‘tower bolt’ of chocolate. Dark chocolate ganache and praline in the shape of, well, a tower bolt. The waiter helpfully pointed out this was what was keeping La Tour together. Hopefully not. Gluttonous husband couldn’t hear the conversation and when it was relayed, his only comment was: ‘How original’.

It was OK but came with a bewildering array of additions. Nominally it was supposed to only have hazelnut ice-cream but a selection of petits fours was served at the same time. A bowl of marshmallows was not nice. They had a chewy texture and were horribly sweet. There was also a bowl of chocolate squares. They were unremarkable. The petits fours selection included a raspberry puff, raspberry macaron and a chocolate cake topped with cream and a thin slice of dark chocolate. The cream was the oddest thing Greedy Girl has tasted in a while – sort of minty but with a definite after taste of caraway seeds.

The presentation of dishes at the table ranged from slightly descriptive to downright perfunctory. This contrasted with the torrent of words when the waiters dropped plates on a French-speaking table. Greedy Girl knows enough French to be able to tell the waiter wasn’t waxing lyrical about the view.

There’s a definite sense that certainly the non-French patrons only ever visit Le Jules Verne once so the waiters don’t really need to try. At the end of one course, Greedy Girl got up to visit the restrooms – getting in the waiter’s way who was about to put cutlery down for the next course. Gluttonous husband watched, bemused, as Greedy Girl’s napkin was brushed off the table on to the chair, so the cutlery could be set.

Later, the waiter returned to pick up the napkin and drape it over the chair arm. When Greedy Girl returned, she had to brush off remnants of salad from the chair before she could take her seat. Not a good look in any restaurant but for one where the standard tasting menu is 210 euros, pretty appalling.

The moral of the story is that if it looks like a tourist trap, it probably is. There are so many wonderful places to eat in Paris and if you’re going to shell out such a significant amount of money for dinner, there are lots of options for much finer dining and an experience memorable for more than the view.

Le Jules Verne

Eiffel Tower, Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Paris

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