There is one restaurant in Paris whose ego will remain even taller than the Eiffel Tower: The Jules Verne, currently run by the Alain Ducasse Group.
Certainly they have a lot to crow about: tables booked months in advance, waiting lists for those unexpected no-shows, and customers from all over the world, clamoring to get in. And when the occasion demands it, a French government ministry wanting to impress foreign visitors will take over the entire restaurant for the price of a small company in Paris. Pourquoi pas?
But for the rest of us, who are working stiffs in search of a good meal at a fair price, we may not buy into this wannabe status symbol, which the French routinely call “piège à touristes” (tourist trap in English).
Like any good red-blooded American, I wanted to impress my husband for his 60th birthday and two years ago, broke down and bought him lunch. We ordered off the menu, and the appetizer was called a “marbré de foie gras”–two postage stamps of foie gras that were layered into two other postage stamps of cold chicken. Not only was the item tasteless, it was also the color of a patient who needed a blood transfusion. That was all that I remember of the meal, apart from a small coterie of waiters standing around gossiping in a corner of the half-empty dining room and ignoring us completely.
The following month I took clients to the Jules Verne for lunch–then we ordered cabillaud à la carte (after all this is only cod fish), and were out within the hour. These are high-rollers who came in a private jet and bought their 16-year-old grand-daughter a Chopard watch for 3500€ in five minutes–but food was not a priority.
Those two experiences led me to believe that if my clients wanted me to book a table at the Jules Verne, I was more than happy to do so, but that I would not go out of my way to recommend this restaurant.