La Tour d’Argent at Artcurial

Tableware from Paris’s oldest restaurant under the hammer

Image: Artcurial

Paris’s oldest restaurant, La Tour d’Argent (second picture), is refreshing its image, not least of all when helmed by incoming head chef Philippe Labbé (formerly of Shangri La and L’Arnsbourg at Baerenthal). Following in the footsteps of Hôtel de Crillon and the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris, and most recently the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Monaco, part of this update involves auctioning more than 3,000 pieces of classic table- and cookware, as well as decor – including dishes, glasses, tablecloths, silverware and the famous engraved silver goblets (sixth picture) on May 9 and 10 (preceded by an exhibition from May 6 to 8) at Paris auction house Artcurial.

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Furnishings and art include a screen (fourth picture) and tâpisserie by Bernard Cathelin (estimated at €2,000-€3000); a 7m-long carpet, circa 1900, formerly on the ceiling of the entrance (€4,000-€5000, third picture); exterior lanterns; and two iconic sculptures from the restaurant – Le Carnardier (€3,000-€4,000) and Le Cuisinier Rôtisseur, inspired by figures of Arcimboldo and Larmessin.

Image: La Tour d’Argent
Image: Artcurial

Rare spirits and liquor under the hammer have been picked from the exceptional wine cellar of 350,000 bottles (fifth picture), famously bricked up during the second world war, and now in the capable hands of British-born head sommelier David Ridgway. Some cognacs dating back to the 19th century are estimated at €3,000-€5,000, with the oldest bottle a Grande Fine Clos du Griffier Cognac dating back to 1788 and estimated at €20,000-€21,000 – of which Ridgway says: “It is surprising how young this cognac tastes.”

Image: Artcurial
Image: Artcurial

Of the cookware, standouts include the entire copperware collection (estimated at roughly €4,000-€5,000, first picture), sold in several lots, and a magnificent solid-silver duck press (€4,000-€6,000). The latter is something of an iconic item, since the house signature dish is Canard Tour d’Argent, created by Frédéric Delair in 1890. Ducks are carved in front of diners, and the bones and blood crushed in a press – Delair also decided to number the ducks, and as of May this year, they clock in at well over a million – around 1,150,237. Diners ordering the duck receive a postcard noting the bird’s serial number. No 112,151 went to US president Franklin D Roosevelt, No 253,652 to Charlie Chaplin, Mick Jagger finished No 531,147, No 954,466 was cooked for Woody Allen and No 1,079,006 for Bill Gates.

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“With the upcoming auction we write a new page in the history of this French culinary monument,” reflects very proud third-generation owner André Terrail.

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