Wednesday, September 5, 2012

La Tour d'Argent: The History

The famed ducks of La Tour d'Argent
Written for by Victoria Cheng
See the full article here.

Being one of the oldest restaurants in the world is no small feat — neither is being the establishment that popularised the use of the fork. These are both claims confidently made by La Tour d’Argent.

Opened in 1582 on a location between the River Seine and the Bernardins monastery, this  establishment became very fashionable among aristocrats and royalty — kings and their courts frequented the restaurant for elaborate feasts that featured whole ox and Heron paté. During these early years, La Tour d’Argent served the wild ducks that lived by the Seine, a favourite dish of King Henry III. The duck eventually became the speciality of the house.

In 1890, owner Frederic Delair put La Tour d’Argent’s duck on the global map when he created a new ritual, lending each duck its very own number when served. Known as Canard au Sang, or pressed duck (a complex dish, comprising duck served in a sauce of its blood and bone marrow), the dish is still the restaurant’s best-known dish, with numbers still climbing well past the one-million mark in 2003.

The restaurant was acquired in 1910 by André Terrail. He maintained its culinary traditions but sought to further upgrade the restaurant with a modernised façade, new recipes and the beginnings of what would become La Tour d’Argent’s famous wine cellar. He later moved the restaurant to the sixth floor of the building, further increasing its popularity with a stunning view that overlooks the river and Notre Dame. La Tour d’Argent continued to garner countless accolades, including three stars from the Michelin Guide.

With a history spanning more than 400 years, La Tour d’Argent also survived World War I and II. During World War II, Claude Terrail (André Terrail’s son) not only served in the armed forces, but saved the wine cellar from being purged by the occupying Germans by walling up the enormous cellar that contained a majority of its prized rare vintages.

> To read more, see the full article here.


  1. "Being one of the oldest restaurants in the world is no small feat — neither is being the establishment that popularised the use of the fork. These are both claims confidently made by La Tour d’Argent."
    And uncritically accepted by journalists who never seem to do the most basic research to try and document how a restaurant - an institution which did not exist until the end of the 18th century - was popular in what was then an outlying part of Paris in the sixteenth century.
    As for the fork, Louis XVI was still new to it a century later so it's unlikely anyone introduced it earlier.
    The best evidence suggests that the Tour d'Argent opened as a very modest establishment soon after the mid-nineteenth century. Its older pedigree seems to have been created whole cloth before that century ended. And repeated in articles like this ever since.

    1. Thanks for your feedback!

      When originally opened, it was simply a "modest establishment" as you suggest - basically a tavern. When journalists like myself have a 600 word limit, you pick and choose what's important to the story. Going into the details of the tavern wasn't the purpose of this article.

      The location has changed since, especially after becoming a popular spot for the aristocrats. Neither does La Tour d'Argent make claims to inventing the use of the fork, but rather being one of the first to popularize it (aka use it as part of what we now know as PR/mktg campaigns). I think you might want to re-read the article again more carefully, because it seems you've misunderstood it. No where does it even say WHEN and HOW the fork was introduced (again, word limits) This also doesn't change the fact that the establishment is one of the oldest, or at the least, a restaurant that has direct links to one of the oldest.



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