Since it reopened last September, I have been dying to go to La Tour d’Argent but I feared getting the wrong table or sharing my meal with the wrong person. Well I got lucky! Not only did I get the best table, because they are all good, but the friend who kindly invited me was so excited at every minute of the three hour lunch that I loved the experience even more. I put ourselves down on the waiting list on Monday and got a table for Tuesday, loved the set menu of four courses (plus cheese at 37€ if you like), talked to all 10 sommeliers and ten waiters, congratulated the head of the restaurant for his calm voice when confirming the table and loved chatting with the very handsome 42 year old André Terrail, whose mother Tarja was a Finnish model and managed the restaurant for many years after his father Claude died at 88 in 2006. André attended l’INSEAD after training at different restaurants and luxury groups, and spent the COVID years creating a boulangerie down below on quai de la Tournelle and renovating the Rôtisserie d’Argent where you can eat a very good duck.
Bookings are made for every fifteen minutes so that clients don’t have to queue to go up in the elevator which takes you to the sixth floor on quai de la Tournelle, a building overlooking Notre Dame and the bridge which leads to Ile Saint Louis. You are welcome first by the Voiturier (valet parking) (so wonderful), who did not look worried by my very dirty car, then by the coat lady and the barmen who attend Le Bar des Maillets d’Argent (the name of the polo team where Claude Terrail played). They are cheerful and make you believe that you are the actors of their happiness… We did not have a drink downstairs and were promptly whisked upstairs to the refurbished restaurant with large windows overlooking the Seine.
A little crystal duck stands on every table, and as soon as you sit down, you are surrounded by a ballet of waiters and waitresses who bring salted marshmallows, little appetizers at the same time as they offer the house champagne or wine. The ambiance is friendly and lively, everyone being in their thirties with a few exceptions and many members of the staff having a slight accent. On Tuesdays, there is only a set menu for lunch. But you can slightly deviate from the menu if you don’t like a dish. My friend chose a special egg instead of the sea bass (which was delicious). We, of course, had the famous duck a canton in this case. Ours carried the number 1 179 462 (they are numbered since 1890) and was particulalry tender with sugar beats treated two ways, barbecued and just poached.
We drank a fabulous Chambolle Musigny chosen with great difficulty from the list of 300 000 bottles which lie in the cellar and the help or a fun and charming sommelière. The dessert was really two. A little scoop of mango sherbet in a passion fruit juice and figs with a scoop of yoghurt ice cream lying on pain perdu… It all sounds like a lot of food but the portions are small enough that you keep eating with appetite…
As for the public, it was a nice mix of a young Italian couple celebrating the baby to come and very in love, two Japanese ladies and two American ladies having a great time on their own, a group of four Americans who looked like the Trumps, the very pretty girls dressed in Chanel and their proud father. A number of young trendy French lawyers or business men and older and maybe provincial couples. A great mix of foreigners and locals who all looked good because you are asked to wear a jacket when you book. My friend who had been taken to the Tour d’Argent by his grandparents when he was a teenager, was incredibly moved to be back. I was enchanted by a rejuvenated restaurant with a friendly atmosphere and excellent food.
There were three things I did not like in the experience. First when you book, you are asked to confirm with a credit card which is really vulgar especially since I booked an hour before going. The second thing is that we waited for a long time (approximately 40 mns) to be served the first course. Too long because you end up eating bred instead. The third is that water is served in silver cups which I find hard on the mouth and I much prefer glass. I suppose I should have requested a crystal glass?
Otherwise everything was not only perfect and delicious but way above any standards of any starred restaurants. Of course the lunch menu at 150 € plus wine is the only one affordable for many of my friends and I have not tried the evening prices closer to three hundred. Another advantage of daylight is that you can admire the scenery along the Seine and all the way to Notre Dame. Of course most guests will want to have the corner table by the window, but we really enjoyed sitting in the back with a perfect view of the restaurant, where the action is as graceful as that of a ballet. And since the kitchen is open on those corner tables, a friend told me that it can be distracting to hear the cooks during the whole meal.
Another plus is that the staff is informative without boring you with tedious descriptions of what you have on your plate… And if some of them are very handsome, others are not at all… It all feels very normal. Don’t plan too much in the afternoon because we left the restaurant at 4.20 pm and were not the last customers…
La Tour d’Argent, 13-15 quai de la Tournelle. Tuesday to Saturday.
You can also have breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner without booking on the ground floor at Le Bar des Maillets d’argent where dishes are around 39€ or just a drink. And in the summer the terrace is open. An apartment with a jacuzzi on the fifth floor is for rent at 7 000€ a night.
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