One of my more bizarre childhood memories is of being stuck at the top of the Eiffel Tower. My family came to Paris often so I don't know how old I was, probably eight at the most. Just before the elevator reached the very tip of the tower, it came to a grinding halt.
I don't know how long we hung there until help came: probably no more than a few minutes, though it must have felt much longer to most of the tourists who were crammed into that stifling lift. I remember people sweating and praying. I remember feeling detached from it all, too young to fear death or disaster. I remember someone breaking the glass at the top of the elevator, which was above the platform, and having us climb out. That seems unbelievable now.
Strangely enough, my family never discussed this incident in years to come and I can't even be entirely sure that it happened. I've been up the tower a few times since with visiting friends and each time the incident floats back into my mind, though it seems too surreal to be truly scary. Certainly I wouldn't let this vaguely remembered childhood trauma get in the way of a good meal, so I jumped at the chance to have lunch with my friend Alison at Le Jules Verne last week.
Star chef Alain Ducasse took over this restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower about a year ago, but it closed for renovations only recently, reopening a few weeks ago with a neo-retro look in brown tones by Patrick Jouin. We had a rare sunny day for our lunch, ensuring a clear view to La Défense, and at 4.30pm we were still lingering in the now-empty dining room as the waiters circled about slightly restlessly. We took the hint and had the restaurant's cushy private elevator all to ourselves on the way down (with no incidents, I'm happy to report).
Ducasse has brought this restaurant back up to the heights it deserves, and the €75 lunch menu is a relative bargain considering the chef's generous hand with truffles. Here are a few images* from our (à la carte) meal:
The view from our table.
Butter with the Jules Verne logo, great with the buckwheat bread.
Lobster with celery root salad and black truffle. I think the picture speaks for itself.
Marinated sea bream with lemon, capers and Iranian oscietra caviar.
Endives with ham and black truffle. They don't make them like this in Sam's school cafeteria.
Sole with symmetrical potato strips and the tiniest baby leeks. I thought the spuma was superfluous.
Savarin doused in its own not-so-little bottle of Armagnac.
Unsinkable grapefruit soufflé, served unabashedly with grapefruit sorbet.
Lemon marshmallows. How did they know I love lemon?
* Thanks to Alison for letting me use her amazing little Lumix camera.