This past September Walter and I had the opportunity to travel to France with some of his family. For a week we stayed in a beautiful villa 10 miles north of Nice right outside Saint-Paul-de-Vence, an old, walled , medieval town. We then flew to Paris for 3 nights where we stayed in Montmartre. We had an amazing time in Paris. All of our dining experiences were memorable, but one really stands out.
On our second night in Paris we decided to check out a restaurant right in Montmartre that had been recommended to us by one of Walter’s colleagues. It is a fondue restaurant and not really Parisian at all, but it was one of the most fun and unique dining experiences I’ve ever had! Le Refuge des Fondues is a tiny, narrow restaurant. I’m not going to lie, if it had not been recommended to us we would not have given it a chance. The storefront is bright red and in the window there is a painting of a clown-like person lifting a barbell that is dripping in cheese…
(picture from Yelp)
The kitchen is in the back and the walls are lined with long, built-in tables and benches. It opens for the day at 7pm, we got there right at 7 and were glad we did. They pack it full, but it fills up fast and tables do not turn over quickly. They don’t take reservations and when we left around 9 there was a line waiting to get in.
We were greeted by very friendly wait staff who led us to our seats near the back of the restaurant. The tables, as I mentioned, are built-in and 1 long surface shared by all. So, to get to the seats on the inside you have to climb over the table! Good thing I wasn’t wearing heels! I hoped on over, it was a spectacle watching the other tables get situated and any time someone on the inside needed to use the bathroom it was like a dangerous game of twister, maneuvering past bowling bowls of fondue while trying not to kick your neighbor in the face.
Once we were seated they promptly brought us this:
A plate of meats, cheeses, olives and an aperitif. There is no menu, everyone gets this when they are seated. The waiter then asked “meat or cheese” and if you are having wine “red or white”. So simple! Well, so simple in concept, we had a very hard time choosing between meat and cheese and were envious of the people next to us who were a group of 4 and could split the meat AND the cheese. Not that they would stop a group of 2 from ordering both, but it literally would not fit on your table. Ultimately we ended up opting for the meat because the cheese is only served with bread and at this point in our trip we had eaten A LOT of cheese.
The meat was served with boiling seasoned oil, beef, potatoes and dipping sauces (sorry I do not have more/better pictures of these things). Fondue is one of my favorite cuisines because I love the experience of cooking your own food right at your table. I thought it was funny that there were little, to no instruction given about how to safely cook the meat, not like the lengthy disclaimer you get at The Melting Pot here in the US!
The food was good enough and there was plenty of it. But the best part of the whole experience was the way they serve beverages in baby bottles! It is so completely random, but puts the cherry on top of such a unique and eclectic dining experience!
It is sad to think that just a few weeks after we were in Paris it was struck by such tragedy. I sincerely hope that I will be able to return someday and I hope the next time you find yourself there you will give this neat little spot a chance!
Oh, one more thing, they only take cash! Walter had to run out at the end of our meal and get Euros from the ATM. Since there is no menu you don’t really know how much it is going to be until the bill comes, I suppose you could ask, we didn’t though. I can’t remember how much it was, but I do remember we were pleasantly surprised with how cheap it was!