Terrail had initially longed to be an actor, but he discovered that the restaurant floor proved a more than adequate substitute. “A restaurant is one of the great stages of the world,” he claimed. “Running one means acting in, directing and enjoying the greatest show on Earth, our human comedy.” On occasion he took the metaphor literally, creating ambitious spectacles for his guests. In 1964 he organised a sound and light show in the cellars of La Tour that told the story of wine — a suitable arena for such a history, as they house one of the greatest wine collections in the world.
Posted 07 June 2006 - 08:04 PM
Posted 09 June 2006 - 04:17 AM
Posted 12 June 2006 - 05:16 AM
Monsieur Terraill will be greatly missed. He was an elegant, fashionable and courteous gentleman of the 'Old School'.
On our first visit to La Tour d'Argent over 20 years ago it was our initial experience at a true Michelin three star, despite my postition as maitre'd at the Phildelphia version of the Cafe Royal owned by Trust House Forte.
Monsieur Terraill came to our table, I presented my card, and suddenly we were not just guests, but honored guests. A digestif was offered on the house, a tour of the rooftop gardens and the cave was conducted and a lovely evening became a truly memorable one.
We will always remember him fondly. He was the ultimate host and made everyone feel welcome.
I could not agree more with you, Tarte Tatin. Claude Terrail was probably one of the greatest restaurateurs who ever lived. (In Paris, one can only really compare him with Jean-Claude Vrinat from Taillevent.) He made everybody feel special and his luxury establishment high above the Seine was a haven of luxury. Pricey, yes, but so worth it. I can still taste the quenelles de brochet André Terrail, the classic Challans duck and the wonderful soufflés. Not to mention the magnificent wine cellar with one of the most comprehensive selections of French wine in the world. All this was not invented but maintained and perfected by Claude Terrail. A flamboyant gentleman who wanted to become an actor and turned the restaurant into his stage instead. Of course with a lot of glamour, with Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve, Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe etc. Shame about the loss of the star(s). I will pursue the remembrance of things past with Terrail's marvellous books, a shiny silver menu I kept from a visit and a dusty bottle of Tour d'Argent Armagnac "Hors d'Age" that I bought as a souvenir once in the eighties. Rest in peace, Monsieur Terrail.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 07:30 AM
Paris Landmark Has Much Experience in Carrying On
Thus, almost imperceptibly, does a famous landmark pass from legendary restaurant to monument historique, as the French call it. No one goes to such places because they are hungry ... One custom the restaurant has maintained through the years is high prices. These days, with the weak dollar, $350 to $400 a person would not be out of line for dinner with a decent wine. Undeterred, the dinner crowd is typically 40 percent to 50 percent American, with a higher percentage in the tourist season. Paris guides note that locals generally go at lunchtime, when prices are relatively lower.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 11:59 PM
Posted 15 June 2006 - 08:41 AM
Posted 18 April 2007 - 03:36 PM
We had a magical time 20 years ago there for our honeymoon, and went for lunch last week. This is a long review, with a lot of pictures. (The missing image icons are just icons - there are no images missing)
We entered downstairs, where there was a doorman, a coat check lady and a Maitre'd in white tie and tails, and were asked if we would like an aperitif in the downstairs lounge. I think we were the only ones to indulge in that for the day's luncheon. Little did we realize, the most inexpensive drink on the menu was 24 euros. I had a glass of their own rose Champagne which was 25 euros. Mr. Tarte Tatin had a Kir. The amuse or little items that they gave us with our drinks were just ok. The yellow furniture was old and worn in a genteel sort of way, but we liked it. It added to the elegant, old fashioned atmosphere of the restaurant.
We then were led to the elevator to whisk us up to the 6th floor. The elevator lady was very formal, and I saw her press a button (other than the floor button), I assume to alert them that a party was on their way up. She escorted us out of the elevator, and we were met by three others...upon entering the room, all the waiters were lined up as we entered the second dining room. The room was so beautiful, the view just lovely, and as they showed us to our window table, I burst into tears!
We had been there 20 years ago, and it was just such a good memory to be back. I felt really stupid, and the waiters, although probably not understanding why I was crying, didn't blink.
The view was wonderful for me, overlooking Notre Dame and the Seine, it was a semi sunny, a bit cloudy day...Mr. Tarte Tatin could see the Seine, but had a pole blocking his view of Notre Dame...
the service all throughout was excellent, very old-fashioned...I imagined one of the young boys was a "piccolo", (remember Bemelmans?) The only problem we had was with the Sommelier, which I believe was not David the British guy who's been there forever....
There is this incredible “wine bible” at La Tour. It’s just huge, bigger than any wine list I’ve ever seen...
We finally decided on a half bottle of La Tour Champagne to start, and then wanted a Vernay Condrieu - first an '87, then he convinced us, rightly so, (as Condrieu is better a bit younger) to go for the ‘89?? He was thoroughly nonplussed with our choice, and I asked him if he liked our choice. He didn't, because his face showed it, and suggested a Riesling instead. That was strange, as we obviously were looking with him at the White Rhone’s and White Burgundies. If that’s the direction the customer is going for, then why not suggest something along the lines of the customer’s interest? The Condrieu was superb. We’d visited Vernay, but hadn’t had this old a Condrieu. So tasty, and perfect with the meal.
Before the amuse, there was a plate of the usual petit fours-gougeres, smoked salmon sandwich, guacamole thing, and then for the Amuse, it was an old fashioned geléed cucumber something-except with foam...
The bread and butter were basic, good, nothing fancy. The butter molded with “La Tour” on it. We both had the Quenelles to start. Nothing like the Chez Jenny gefilte fish Quenelle! This was light, and not as much a dumpling as just a delicious taste with a wonderful duxelle underneath!
We were so excited we ordered our duck incorrectly. We both like it pretty rare, but for some reason when they asked “a point” I said “oui”, and then Mr. TT said, “rose” and I changed mine to that too. Merde. We should have said, “saignant”. Our fault. So it came out pretty medium...But, it was very good. Big, thick pieces of tender, duck with taste... It had a pea and mint mousse and a fruit compote with dried cherries and orange slices, and a long, thin stick of almond nougatine placed on top. It also had this incredible duck rillette/confit, a round piece of heaven. That was the best.
For dessert, I had the lemon cracker with caramel ice cream.
He had the fruit dessert (see menu below).
They also brought out a chocolate decadent dessert with a candle in it, to celebrate our anniversary.
After that there was petit fours...so much! They gave us a souvenir menu and duck postcards with numbers on it (I still have mine from 20 years ago too, when I had a proper duck press).
Luncheon was 70 euros a person, and with the aperitifs and a 70 Euros half bottle of Champagne, and a 130 euros bottle of wine, the total was 370 (without the added cash tip). I think that is what the total was for dinner-20 years ago...an expensive lunch for us, about $500. But worth it for the memories, for the service experience, and, the food was good too. Again, nothing extraordinary or extremely creative. But a great experience.
We didn’t go to the roof garden this time (not open to the public anymore), or the wine cave (we could’ve gone, but chose not to)...
We missed Claude Terrail, who greeted us and charmed us. We missed the old lady who sat opposite her petite chien at the table next to us, the dog in his own chair, eating off his own plate. We missed Mons. Alexander, the oldest waiter in the world, who took our aperitif order. When we described him, taking our order: “Bonsoir, Madame et Monsieur, voulez-vous une aperitif ce soir” (this took him about 1 full minute and a creaking of vertebrae by vertebrae as he bowed while speaking), the Captain totally remembered him... We missed the spider and the spider’s web we saw above us at the window 20 years ago....
Here’s to 20 years from now to do it again!
Edited by TarteTatin, 18 April 2007 - 04:28 PM.
Posted 19 April 2007 - 05:18 AM
Thank you so much for this wonderful write-up and the beautiful pictures!!!!
They bring back my own memories of this place which I visited only once 15 years ago with a friend who a few years later sadly passed away. When we arrived upstairs and got out of the elevator, the waiters were also lined up, Claude Terrail appeared, greeted us by name and took a bow almost to the floor! I would probably be crying if I went in there again today ...
Glad to see the quenelles still look exactly the same, glad to see the glass ducks are still on the table, glad to see the silver is still shining. I wouldn't dare drinking a Condrieu that old but I suppose it would go quite nicely with the nostalgic atmosphere in this old fashioned place.
The treatment you got from the sommelier reminds me of the one we got at the time. We went for quite a pricey red burgundy to go with our duck and the sommelier steered us to a different vintage of the same wine ("plus souple, plus fruité", etc.) We followed his advice, enjoyed the wine and found out later that this other vintage was about 50% more expensive than the one we had chosen initially.
Also funny thinking about a "bargain" lunch menu of 70 Euros if you then have to pay another 50 Euros for two aperitifs. But let's not talk about money, this should not be an issue in a place as memorable as this. I still have an unopened bottle of Tour d'Argent Armagnac which I bought as a souvenir at the time, I own all of Claude Terrail's books and a shiny menu. The old times may be lost but it really is time I go back here ...
Edited by ameiden, 19 April 2007 - 05:23 AM.
Posted 11 September 2007 - 11:19 AM
Posted 01 October 2007 - 12:55 AM
blog John Talbott's Paris
Posted 20 June 2011 - 07:18 PM
I'm visiting Paris with Wifey in a few months and have fancied La Tour for years. Has anybody been recently? Best for lunch/dinner?
Comments most welcome.
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