On 5th October 2023, the 1,178,727th duck was served at the Tour d’Argent. It was a Challans duck which, like all the others since 1890, comes from the Burgaud family. Loyalty is a key word in this house, where they are continuing the legacy of Frédéric Delair, the maître d'hôtel who became owner of the Tour d'Argent and made pressed duck the restaurant's speciality. He refined the serving, cutting the duck at the end of a fork, without it touching the dish. He had the brilliant idea of numbering the ducks served, a tradition kept to this day by the Terrail family, who bought the restaurant in 1911. They are also faithful to historical recipes, such as The Three Emperors' foie gras, first served in 1867 during the Universal Exhibition in Paris, to three emperors: William I of Prussia, Tsar Alexander II and his son – the future Alexander III – as well as Chancellor Bismarck.
The change in tradition:
Chef Yannick Franques, who has been in the kitchen at Tour d’Argent for four years, is not content with perpetuating history, but rather intends to bring the restaurant into the present day: “The recipe for the pressed duck has remained intact. The duck is cut in mid-air, with very precise movements, at the table, by the maître d'hôtel, then presented in two courses: the supreme with blood sauce, served on a plate specially made by ceramist Sylvie Coquet. Then during the second course, you can enjoy the confit leg, on a small skewer, with a piece of duck pudding. Today I use – as best I can – all parts of the duck, to respond to current concerns about limiting waste. I have also twisted certain dishes, like the pike quenelle, which I also prepare with pike perch.
"I'm working on lightening some sauces too, and have created new dishes like the 'mystère de l’œuf' and plantain gyoza. We studied the restaurant archives a lot and took out recipes from the boxes, such as 'the lobster of the three maharajahs'. I work with ingredients that we didn't use before like yuzu, or certain spices which I find at Ankhor, which sources its produce in France. I also wanted to rethink the first course, by offering – on the Christofle silver presentation plate – a Parisian parfait on a zabaglione which changes every season."
Looking to the future:
This legendary restaurant opens itself up to the future just as its bay windows open onto the Seine and Notre-Dame Cathedral, or rather the latter's lengthy reconstruction project. “Contrary to what we thought, the work on the cathedral does not put off our customers – it even constitutes entertainment for them. At night, the site is entirely illuminated,” explains André Terrail III, President of the establishment since the death of his father Claude in 2006. After 18 months of work, the Tour d'Argent reopened its doors. “The 6th and 7th floors have been completely rebuilt,” explains Virginie Guyonnet, Communications Director for the Tour d’Argent group. The renovation, including the facelift of the gourmet restaurant's dining room, was entrusted to architect Franklin Azzi. The kitchen has expanded and now opens onto the room, allowing customers to watch an impressive procession of chef's hats as the team complete the theatrical dishes in full view; you can watch, for example, as the livers are crushed and mixed with Madeira and Cognac, then the carcass is put in a majestic silver press. Three new spaces have been created for the building, from the ground floor to the roof: the Bar des Maillets d'Argent, open from breakfast; the Toit de la Tour, on the 7th floor, for a drink at the top of the Tower; and the Apartment, the former home of the Terrail family, today open for an exceptional stay.
The experience at the heart of La Tour:
“All the developments made over the past 10 years at the Tour d’Argent are at the service of the table, of the gastronomic experience offered to our customers. So Le Boulanger de la Tour, our bakery, works above all for the restaurant; Kévin Derpierre, our Baker, offers a specific bread with each dish. At L’Épicerie de la Tour, you can find produce from our suppliers. On the ground floor, the Bar des Maillets d'Argent opens from 9am to midnight and extends the gastronomic experience with a cocktail or digestif. We are also working on a cigar offering on the terrace,” explains Terrail. “The cellar, today managed by Victor Gonzales who succeeds David Ridgway, still has nearly 300,000 bottles. This exceptional choice of wines is obviously also part of what customers come for at the Tour d’Argent,” he adds. While their name might translate to silver, it’s a gold medal finish for La Tour d’Argent and the team continuing to bring excellence to France’s gastronomic scene.
Hero Image: Matthieu Salvaing