Le Jules Verne

It is hard to imagine a more spectacular setting to dine than at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Rumour has it Kim and Kanye- sorry Kimye- are thinking about holding there pre-wedding meal here. That’s whether Kim’s huge arse can fit in the tiny lift that carries you half way up the tower. Or Kanye’s ego for that matter. The restaurant is Le Jules Verne, another in kind Ducasse’s crown, carrying another Michelin star for his collection.

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Inside is somewhere between a spaceship and a fine dining restaurant. But it’s not the decor you come for, it’s the views, and there’s no denying that they are spectacular. Admittedly Paris can’t boast a skyline like New York, but you can see all the way out to Sacre Coeur. This probably explains why the prices are so cripplingly high. There was nothing other than a 5 course tasting menu, with a main choice of either fish or meat, for €185. And this was the lunch menu.

To start lemon marinated sea bream, gold caviar, mimosa garnish.

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Then a lobster bique, served as a gazpacho, with orange and a stunning watercress mousse.

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The asparagus starter was cooked in the same tender way as Le Meurice, but I preferred this because it came with cheese and a truffled mousseline and was absolutely delicious.

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Then came either Blue lobster with sauteed vegetables, which was easily the best lobster dish I have ever tried.

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Or beef with souffleed potatoes (basically the best puffed up crisps in the world)and foie gras, which might well be the most rich and pleasing beef dish I have tried.

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Then came a wild strawberry and lime palet with passion fruit and ginger sorbet, that was simple and refreshing.

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Followed by the heavier praline and chocolate dessert, that was unbelievably rich and again faultless.

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The food didn’t stop here and with the coffee came an a selection of excellent petit-fours.

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The food was better than 3 Michelin star Le Meurice in my opinion and there wasn’t a dish that wasn’t of the highest standard. The view alone is worth coming for, even if that is going to cost you around £200 a head for lunch. If Kim and Kanye do choose this place, then it will inevitably be swamped by tourists for the rest of its days and you’ll never be able to give it a try. So get in while you can.

 

Food: 9.5/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value: 4/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Tour Eiffel, Avenue Gustave Eiffel, 75007 Paris, France

 

 

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La Fontaine de Mars

Finding a good restaurant in Paris should be easy. After all it is the home of fine dining. Every top chef tends to have some form of classic French training in their arsenal. It’s all Michel Roux Jnr harps on about on MasterChef. And yet my last 3 experiences of Paris have consisted of over-priced and extremely average meals. TimeOut Paris doesn’t offer much help, nor does TripAdvisor as ever is completely erratic in its ratings. And so unless you are going to stick to the established hotel and Michelin starred restaurants, you’re best bet is to stumble across somewhere yourself. But the problem with this is that when hunger kicks in, you almost always end up in one of those crappy tourist traps with the menu board outside in every language. As soon as you see spaghetti bolognese alongside snails, you know you’re in trouble.

But every now and then you find a real gem. A restaurant you don’t want to tell anybody about out of fear that next time you go it will be overrun. Well La Fontaine de Mars is a real find. It’s hardly unheard of given that no other than Barack and Michelle Obama ate there on their last visit to Paris. But tucked away in a quiet street in a chic French neighbourhood, it’s out of sight from the passing tourists. I feared that every American would be flocking there now, and that the walls would be plastered with photos of the President. But thankfully there was no sign of any photos. And even better, no Americans. Instead, all I could hear was the soothing sound of classy French diners knocking back red wine and good traditional cooking. The dining room is extremely homely, making it slightly strange to imagine somebody as important as Obama tucking into steak frites here.

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After a bottle of Billecart-Salmon rose (€95- half the price of the same bottle at Le Meurice) it was straight into the starters. The Escargot de Bourgogne were drowned in buttery garlic sauce. This is only the third time I’ve had snails, and my last experience was in Balthazar in Covent Garden, but they were no comparison to these. At Balthazar the snails were small and a little tough, these were much juicier, almost like they had only been cooked for a short time and this allowed the earthy flavour to come through.

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I had eggs poached in red wine with bacon and shallots. What could be more French that that? It was incredibly rich, so much so that I have no idea how the French haven’t all keeled over if this is the food they eat. The sauce was almost as rich as a Port and although it really complimented the creaminess of the egg yolks, it was a little too indulgent for me.

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The Blue Lobster salad was the special and given it was in season it was hard to resist. It was a simply put together salad, with the nice addition of grapefruit giving a sharpness. With lobster of this quality that’s all it needed.

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The cow’s head stew was another dish packed with big flavours. Again this was a big old starter. It was heavy on the vinegar and capers, something I love, but a little too sharp for my partner who forced me to swap with her.

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For main the steak frites was more fillet of beef with chips, and although it was fine, it was hardly a cut of steak I’ll remember.

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The daily special was lamb cutlet with potatoes gratin. Again the meat wasn’t the best I’ve had, but with the garlic creaminess of the potatoes, I really didn’t care. There’s just nothing better than potatoes gratin. Cheese, garlic, cream. Putting these together will make you like any plate clean.

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The black pudding with apple was a classic combination and was simply and effectively done. There was enough spice and depth in the black pudding so that the sweetness of the big mound of stewed apples didn’t overpower it.

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For dessert we shared 2, and I have no idea how one person would have managed them. The chestnut Mille-feuille was a gigantic slice. I always expect them to be dainty things, but this was a British sized slice. The chestnut cream worked really well as it wasn’t as sweet as the traditional custard or cream.

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The floating island dessert was again huge. It was really light and again not too sweet.

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The meal was just over €80 with a bottle of champagne and a good Malbec. Throughout the service was excellent, although given the language barrier the waiter couldn’t chat to us too much. I like this though. It made it feel even more authentic. The food wasn’t groundbreaking, but you don’t expect it to be at a neighbourhood bistro. It’s very much like L’Absinthe in Primrose Hill, one of my favourites, in that it just keeps things simple but uses good ingredients and serves good wine. This is a real gem, one that I only hope stays this way. It’s a 10 minute taxi ride away from the touristy areas, but well worth the trip.

Food: 7.5/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Value: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

129 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris

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Le Cinq

The Four Seasons George V takes luxury to the next level. We were staying in Le Meurice, which has a much more boutique feel and although it is still grand, it was like a Holiday Inn in comparison to this. The flower displays alone were enough to blow you away. We were greeted at the door and guided through to Le Cinq’s classy dining room.  It had a much more relaxed and warm feel than Le Meurice, and with plenty more diners having lunch there was a much better atmosphere as well.

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Immediately the champagne cart was wheeled over and we all started with an excellent light glass of rose. Then came the star of the show. Not the food. But the waiter. Julien he was called. He quite literally was the best waiter I have ever had. From the moment he came over and realised we were Geordies his chat started. Over the course of the meal we covered football, films, traveling and of course the food. It was the perfect blend of unbelievable charm with flawless professionalism. He quite literally made the meal.

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The Market menu was three courses for €110, which felt like a bargain after the previous two meals we’d had. There was a choice of two starters, mains and desserts, so if you didn’t like pigeon and liver you were pushed towards the fish choice of Whiting.

To start things off three little amuse bouches were all a little bit strange. The egg shell was filled with what tasted almost like a cappuccino cream. Then there was some fish with apple  I can’t remmeber the details). And the final one was a little pastry filled with ricotta and a fish paste that tasted a little bit like sweat but in the best way possible.

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Then came a choice of excellent breads came with a stunning Sicilian olive oil, and an even better seaweed butter from Brittany. I was happy with the new Lurpak slow churned butter, until I tried this.

A pumpkin and ginger soup followed, and it was a really refreshing way to prepare for the meal. The pumpkin seeds gave an added crunch, and served cold this really was a fitting dish for the warm Spring weather outside.

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The Octopus and Prawn starter was a thing of beauty and tasted as good as it looked. The seaweed crisp and vegetables gave it a pleasing variation of textures, and the flavour of the octopus, which had charred flesh, was stunning. The side of a thin anchovy, buratta and jalapeno pizza  slice was a delicious little treat. If only takeaways started doing a 12 inch version.

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The Watercress soup (served cold) came with a Muscadet jelly and a side pastry with Mediterranean vegetables on top. It was a beautifully light starter, with such a clean and fresh flavour. The jelly brought a sweetness that really worked with the watercress.

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For main I went for the Pigeon coated in sesame seeds and foie gras, with liver and spinach inside. It was kind of like a Pigeon Wellington, and was a good portion for a lunch menu. There was a lovely balance between the richness of the foie gras with the earthiness of the liver. The celery were coated in a cocoa crumb, which seemed a little bit random, but gave a nice hit of sweetness.

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The Whiting was perfectly cooked and had an almost butter like taste and texture. This was just a flawless main course, and easily the best fish dish I have tasted.

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A grapefruit sorbet with champagne and mascerpone was a lovely palate cleanser. The tang of the grapefruit was perfectly offset by the creaminess of the mascerpone. I would have been happy with this for dessert.

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I went for the Green Apple combination which had a light candy floss on top and a lovely sorbet. But the further I went down the sweeter it became, and I couldn’t finish it all. The liquid at the bottom was a bit like a shot of Apple Sourz and tasted almost artificial in its sweetness.

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My parents had the chocolate and cherry dessert with coconut ice cream. Hot chocolate sauce was poured over it to melt the dome of chocolate (a trick I’m a bit bored of) but this was much better than the Green Apple dessert and the plates were as good as licked clean by the end.

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Then came the petit-fours, which were all delicious, although again quite sweet. There was lemon meringue pie, an orange cream one and the last was something like a cherry profiterole.

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If that wasn’t enough, truffles, nougat and sweets followed with the coffee. The waiters then gave us a box of our choosing to take home. They also took a photo of us and gave us each a printed version before we left. It was these little touches that made it the best dining experience of my life.

The food was excellent, and definitely worthy of 2 Michelin stars. It felt much more deserving of a third star than Le Meurice. The dessert was the only course I wasn’t blown away by, and it was hard to find a fault with any of the other dishes. What made the meal though was the service. They made it a pleasure to be dining there, and also had great patter which made it into a surprisingly laid back and fun lunch. Something you don’t tend to associate with fine dining.

It cost just over €260 a head, but that included two excellent bottles of a vintage 2008 Chablis (€130) and a bottle of rose champagne. This is of course a lot for lunch, but it still managed to feel like great value (for Paris that is) as the lunch market menu at €110, gives you all of the extras, making it more of a 6 course meal. I promised the waiter that I’d return next year, and given just how good this meal was, I definitely intend to.

Food: 9/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value: 8.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10

31 Avenue George V, 75008 Paris, France

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