Eiffel Tower restaurant to reopen after collision of kitchen egos

Olga NEDBAEVA
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The restaurant, located on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, offers spectacular views across Paris

The restaurant, located on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, offers spectacular views across Paris (AFP Photo/ludovic MARIN)

Paris (AFP) - Legendary Eiffel Tower restaurant the Jules Verne reopens this weekend after a titanic battle that saw two top chefs prise it away from culinary star Alain Ducasse, who had run the eatery for the past decade.

Ducasse was evicted by the Eiffel Tower's operator last year to make room for chefs Frederic Anton and Thierry Marx, whose consortium won the right to take over the management of the Jules Verne and the other food outlets in the monument, which include snack counters and a brasserie on the first level.

The transition for the Jules Verne proved a bitter one. Ducasse was especially stung by the operator's opinion that the new chefs offered a "strong leap in terms of quality".

Suggesting his chosen successors were not up to the task, Ducasse launched -- and lost -- a lawsuit to keep control of the famed eatery-with-a-view, which has fed presidents, celebrities and an endless line of well-heeled tourists and locals.

That means that, from Saturday, diners willing to fork out for set menus ranging from 105 to 230 euros ($118 to $258) per person, excluding drinks, will find a new culinary experience awaits, under new management.

Anton, 54, told reporters days ahead of the reopening that the new-look restaurant and menu have definitively turned the page on the Ducasse era.

"There's not any trace of anyone else here. We started afresh... it's our spirit here," he told reporters as he showed off dishes featuring crab, langoustine ravioli or smoked aubergine.

He said he has been so busy he "didn't have time to think" about the criticism.

- Famous diners -

The Jules Verne sits on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, 125 metres (410 feet) above Paris.

Its pared back new interior, designed by Lebanese architect Aline Asmar d'Amman, offers panoramic views over the City of Light. Customers are advised that the dress code is "smart casual". Shorts and flipflops are not allowed.

Some of the most famous recent diners there include presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump, who ate there with their wives in July 2017.

Anton said he would be heavily involved in the cooking and management of the Jules Verne, with daily trips planned between the Eiffel Tower and his other restaurant in Paris, the three-star Le Pre Catalan.

And he couldn't resist a little dig at Ducasse, who is now rarely seen in the kitchen as he concentrates on running a global food empire that spans multiple restaurants and corporate ventures.

"I'm not in a rush to have 50 restaurants around the world," Anton says.

While he will run the Jules Verne, Marx is expected to breathe new life into the first-floor brasserie restaurant along with their corporate partner, French multinational food services group Sodexo.

"I want the Jules Verne to become a gastronomic destination before being considered a tourist destination," Anton said.