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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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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Le Meurice

Restaurant Le Meurice. My first taste of 3 Michelin stars. With Alain Ducasse’s name stamped on it I was a little apprehensive about what to expect. After all he doesn’t cook here and instead spends his time collecting Michelin stars around the world. His restaurant in the Dorchester in London (Le Meurice is part of the Dorchester Collection) has had its fair share of critics questioning why it deserves that third Michelin star. All I knew about this restaurant, given just how tightly any information regarding the menu or price is kept, is that it was no doubt going to cost me an arm and a leg.

The dining room combines stunning French luxury with some modern touches and it is without a doubt the finest I have ever been in. Just to show off there was a somewhat pointless 300kg crystal slab right in the middle of the room. I of course mistook it for a ice sculpture and asked the waiter how long it takes to melt. Really showed my class there.

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The service was even better than I had expected. There was never a moment when you were left wanting anything. Even the little touches like giving the women a stool to rest their handbags on, or the bag of sea salt and chocolates at the end to take away, made that extra bit of difference. The waiters also managed to remove any of the stuffiness that I had been expecting, and instead it was a laid back three and a half hour feast. However, this service still isn’t for me. It is nice being pampered, but when you have a waiter topping up your water every time you have a sip it does feel like you are having dinner with them.

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The menu was in French, so we needed the waitress to walk us through it.  There were about 4 choices from each section of the menu, but we settled for the chef’s menu, at a whopping €380 for 5 courses. To think that Alain Ducasse in the Dorchester is 7 courses for around £180.

With an aperitif of rose champagne came a warm poached oyster wrapped in a butter crisp. It was a pleasant alternative to the mouthful of salt water you usually get, even though it did take the fun out of slurping them down. The subtle flavour lingered and worked perfectly with the champagne. I’m assuming this was intended?

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Then came an excellent selection of breads. One of them was sawed from a huge loaf that needed its own trolley to be pushed around on.

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For an amuse-bouche there was an assortment of vegetables that had been cooked inside a salt crust, served in a fondue-like pot. These were without doubt the best vegetables I have ever tasted. The salt had intensified their flavour and they were also all perfectly cooked . I didn’t realise a potato could be this good. There was a light sorrel cream to dip them in that worked brilliantly.

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To start we all had a dish quite simply named Asparagus (a whopping €90 if you go for it on its own). The asparagus had been cooked in a way that made it disintegrate from the touch of a fork, and it was the best I’ve ever tasted. With it came a charred cheese crumb (or something along those lines) and several other fancy techniques using the asparagus.

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Next up was the Blue Lobster with cooking juices. It had been poached for only a minute meaning that the flavour really did shine through. It did make the texture a little chewy though. As for the cooking juices, they lacked the depth of flavour I was expecting and didn’t really bring the dish together.

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For main, I went for the Chicken stuffed with black truffle. It was a little on tepid side (I have no idea if it was meant to, but after my ice sculpture mistake, I wanted to preserve some pride so I didn’t ask). The chicken skin must have been cooked separately as it was perfectly crisp, and the chicken beneath tasted as if it had been cooked in a water bath on a low temperature as it almost had a gelatine texture.

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The lamb dish just didn’t look appetising at all. The 4 tiny little slices of lamb just looked bland, and although there was a great taste of lamb, there was just nothing to get your teeth into. The side was a wheat or grain of some sort and was really heavy on the citrus and not really that pleasant. This was a miss of a dish. One that I wouldn’t be too pleased with in any top restaurant.

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Then came an excellent selection of French cheeses including the best Brie I have ever tried. A little black olive bread roll and some fruit bread were perfect accompaniments.

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For pudding I had what was essentially a chocolate sundae with coffee ice cream and a side of chocolate souffle. For me that souffle hasn’t risen enough. What made up for this was the most intense hot dark chocolate sauce I have ever tried.

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The passion fruit dessert had lots of different textures and the meringue was soft and sticky, but was this a little bit safe for a three Michelin starred dessert? It was a good sorbet and had an intense flavour, but it was hardly groundbreaking stuff.IMG_3114

My partner went for the Pear tart. Again this was a very simple dish executed perfectly. The pear was an appetising golden colour and was on a thin disc of pastry. But is this really three star cooking?

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Then came a selection of sorbets from a tray of exotic fruits. I wonder if all that fruit goes to waste? IMG_3120

With the coffee came little crispy shards with walnuts and a bag of dark chocolate each to take home. The coffee was also of the highest quality, with almost a dark chocolate richness to it.

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Maybe my taste-buds just aren’t refined enough to appreciate the quality of the ingredients. Maybe if I had tried every type of asparagus out there, then I could tell the difference. But I haven’t, and so the quality was lost on me a bit. I was looking for groundbreaking cooking, not great ingredients simply cooked. If you don’t dine at these types of places each week, and like me save it for a special occasion, then Le Meurice isn’t the place to go. This feels like a restaurant where people used to experiencing the high life can go for some solid and fairly safe cooking, and then don’t flinch when they see the bill for such simplicity. Although the service and the room were of the highest standard, the food itself was not what I expected of 3 Michelin stars. I couldn’t help but feel that nothing really pushed the boat out. Even the presentation didn’t blow me away.

As for the value it is without a doubt the most expensive meal I am ever likely to have. After going for the €380 taster menu (around £320), a bottle of Billecart-Salmon rose champagne (€250) and a couple of bottles of great white wine (€220 each) the bill came out at over €500 a head for dinner. There are no doubt plenty of other 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants in the world that serve better food at fairer prices. But of course eating in one of Paris’ best hotels in a luxurious dining room, and with king Ducasse’s name attached to it, this of course can command just about what it wants. I wouldn’t go back, but I still loved every moment of it.

Food: 6/10

Service: 9/10

Atmosphere: 6/10

Value: 2/10

Overall: 6/10

228 Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France

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L’Absinthe

Right in the heart of Primrose Hill, a few minutes walk from the rest of the shops and restaurants on Regents Park Road, L’Absinthe could easily be a little Parisian bistro. Inside it has that casual bric-a-brac appeal with books and artwork scattered around the dining room, and everybody is greeted by a warm Bonjour from the all-French staff.

The prices are extremely reasonable. All of the starters are around £6, and the mains around £16. But it’s the wine list that really becomes your friend. L’Absinthe doubles up as a wine shop and operates with a £10 corkage policy. So of course choosing something towards the bottom of the list makes more sense. We went for a Sancere at £34 (three bottles of it by the end it was that good) and it would have been easily been closer to the fifty mark in another restaurant.

The food is simple and unpretentious home-cooking. If you really wanted you could probably cook it yourself, and certainly plate it up like they do here, but it why go to all the effort. It’s reasonably enough priced for you to merit nipping here any night of the week for a casual bite to eat. The menu is made up of classic French comfort dishes, the types that don’t hold back on the calories. I went for the fish soup with rouille and croutons and it had a nice depth of flavour and the rouille had a good kick to it.

ImageThe blue cheese, chicory and walnut salad was fine, slightly messy with the presentation, but compensated for by the generous portion.saladFor main I went for steak frites.  It was a juicy cut of meat and came with a finger-licking bernaise sauce.

steakfritesThe sea bass wasn’t anything special. It was cooked well enough, but the ratatouille and and sweet pepper sauce didn’t do much for the flavour of the fish, and it was all a bit one texture.

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For dessert we shared an Absinthe creme brulee that was creamy and rich, although a little more of that absinthe flavour would have been a treat, and a chocolate and coffee mousse that had such a intense dark chocolate flavour that it was gone before I could get a photo.

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What makes L’Absinthe is the staff. They make it a pleasure to eat there, as if they are welcoming you into their own home. It’s not the type of place you would come especially to Primrose Hill for, and it is far from being the best French food in the capital. Instead it is a restaurant that if you are lucky to have on your doorstep that you will always go back to. As the owner says on the website- good food, good wine, good company…what more do you need? L’Absinthe delivers on all three and you will leave full, drunk and happy for under £50 a head.

Food: 6.5/10

Service: 8.5/10

Atmosphere: 7.5/10

Value: 8/10

Overall: 7/10

40 Chalcot Rd, Primrose Hill, NW1 8LS

L'Absinthe on Urbanspoon

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