Monday, February 2, 2015

The mythical "Tour D'Argent"

Resting on the southern bank of the River Seine across from the famous Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris towers the mythical La Tour d'Argent. A culinary and magical experience is presented to you as soon as you step off the gilded elevator escorted by a white gloved attendant. The restaurant sits high above the real world and as soon you enter the main dining room you know you are in for something special. Everything from the yellow glow of the candle lit room to its breath taking views and luxurious decor create a perfect ambiance to fully enjoy the French gastronomy you are about to undertake. The oldest restaurant in Paris, the Tour d'Argent claims to have opened its doors in 1582 where it was created as an elegant inn to cater to the high society and aristocrats of its day. It was built using stones from the region of Champagne France, which gave the edifice a silvery likeness thus giving the tower its name La Tour d’Argent (the Silver Tower).

Although you may already recognise the interior of this fine establishment as the Pixar animated film, Ratatouille, was loosely based on La Tour d’Argent (sad to say I didn't see a blue talking/cooking rat during my meal).  Since its opening, the restaurant has had countless famous and infamous diners throughout its 400 year history. Louis XIV, Philippe d 'Orléans and the Duke of Richelieu were amongst the early famous faces to have their favourite tables by the windows. During the Second Empire, the Duke of Morny, entertained at the Tour d'Argent. More recently the restaurant hosted figures like Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, and Coco Chanel to name a few.

The Island of Île Saint-Louis and Pont Tournelle
In 1890, the owner and chef Frédéric Delair became famous when he created the ritual of the "Canard au Sang", which is a complex duck dish, known as "pressed duck "or "bloody duck", and shortly afterwards he declared that every duck should bear its own number (the restaurant raises its ducks on its own farm). Andre Terrail then purchased the Tour d'Argent from Frédéric Delair in 1910, modernising the building and its façade, yet he still kept the culinary traditions and added additional recipes and a fine collection of wines held within the restaurants cellar. 

The duck is a very serious affair at La Tour D'Argent!
The tradition of attributing each duck with a number still continues today. In 1890 Edward VIIPrince of Wales ate number 328, in 1921 Thomas Rockefeller No. 51,327, No. 112,151 went to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, No. 253,652 went to Charlie Chaplinin 1979 Roman Polanski enjoyed 554,711 and more recently Bill Gates No. 1079006. The millionth duck was eaten in 2003, the year Claude Terrail's son André took over the restaurant. I ate duck number 1139857 (poor duck!) 

"Mazarine" duckling with orange sauce 1st preparation
"Mazarine" duckling with orange sauce 2nd preparation
Postcard with the number of your duck
Of course no French meal is complete with out cheese and desert. Both did not fail to impress! And if you don't feel like you can top off your meal with cheese or desert (but it's something you kind of have to do...) each table receives a three tiered assortment of French sugary pâtisserie's regardless if you order desert or not. And if that is not enough they also bring you a silver tray with a generous amount of home made caramel's and nougat. AND just to make sure you have a little keepsake to take home with you, they give you a Tiffany blue box of home made orange cake to have for breakfast the next day!

Wonderful selection of matured cheese
Chestnut, yuzu pastry stick, chestnut & rum ice cream
The wine list and wine cellar at La Tour d’Argent is just as mythical and legendary as the restaurant itself. Also created in 1582, the wine cellar holds over 450,000 of the worlds most rare and costly bottles of wine, champagne and spirits. During WWII the cellar was bricked up to hide and save the contents from the Germans and Hitler. 

The wine list 
My partner, a French winemaker and wine enthusiast, spent a looooong amount of time geeking over the list. After the meal we were very lucky to be invited by the sommelier to visit the famous wine cellar. The excitement of being invited was matched by the excitement of seeing the impressive cave. We were escorted by the sommelier to the elevator where we were taken down by the attendant and greeted by the “keeper” of the cellar (who guards the cave day and night). He walked us through a double-locked iron gate and then provided us with a thick sheepskin vest to protect us from the cold and damp environment. He then escorted us through the alleyways of bottles explaining how the bottles are categorised and what types of vintages the cellar housed.

Like all things in life, all good things must come to an end. As you descend from the high tower of the dreamy Tour d' Argent back into reality you reflect on the special experience you just had (or perhaps on the bill! The name of the restaurant may mean the Silver Tower but it may also reflect the amount of silver you will have to sell to pay for your meal!) Luckily, when you step off the elevator you can wake from the dream slowly. You still have a few minutes to walk through the ground floor before exiting the building (which is now a museum) and exhibits a table beautifully set as it was in 1867 when Tsar Alexander II and the King of Prussia dined together. Sprinkled around the beautiful ground floor are also memorabilia and photographs; there's a delightful one of Queen Elizabeth the II and Prince Phillip (duck No. 185,397) leaving the restaurant in May 1948. They know that special feeling....and so should you, its worth every penny.  

Back to reality! Time to walk back to walk over the bridge to Île Saint-Louis

Open Tuesday - Saturday and located at 15 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris. Jackets and reservations required. 01 43 54 23 31 or


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