We had lunch at La Tour d’Argent in the summer of 2008 with H’s parents. This was our first foray into the French gastronomy scene and to be honest, it was intimidating. I am writing this 4 years after our visit, so much of the experience is hazy and not too detailed.
This place is an institution, founded in 1582 and its reputation precedes it having served royalty and politicians. The restaurant used to have 3 stars but lost them and now is comfortably sitting on 1 star. The dinning hall is very grand, with big chandeliers and heavy draping. A few of all the waiters were dressed in tailcoats which seem a little extreme to me, and the service was bordering on the line of pretentious. It made us uncomfortable, though I have to say we were probably too immature to embrace it then.
Tour d’Argent is famous for 2 things – pressed duck and their wine cellar. The wine list arrived in the form of a 3 inch thick book and their cave under the restaurant is a treasure chest of close to 500,000 bottles. An auction in 2009 saw the restaurant selling 4% of their bottles to pay for the refurbishment of the restaurant. The wine prices are a bit silly, but it is expected of a restaurant of this standing.
The pressed duck is the speciality here and each duck is tagged with a serial number. Every customer that orders the dish will receive a postcard with their duck number attached. The duck is served in a sauce of duck blood and bone marrow (hence pressed duck). I remember it tasted delicious as I was oblivious to the preparation and it was only after lunch that I felt queasy when I found out about the blood sauce.
The restaurant boasts breath taking views of the Seine and Notre Dame so reserve tables by the windows if you can. I can imagine it being very romantic at night with Paris lit up, but its equally beautiful in the day if the weather is sunny.
There is also an épicerie on the ground floor where you can buy some of their in house pâté or confiture.
15 Quai de la Tournelle