Le Refuge des Fondus, Montmartre, Paris
Le Refuge des Fondus is one of Paris's most-loved hotspots in the bustling Anvers and Pigalle district amongst the Moulin Rouge and Sacre-Coeur. You can find it squeezed amongst many bars, crêperies and restos and consists of a small room with two long wooden tables either side. The restaurant mostly attracts young tourists looking for some fun and laughs. It is important to note that this is not the place for gourmet french food and this if often where tourists are led astray. Our apartment was fortunately just a stone's throw away up the street so it was the perfect relaxed start to our night before my friend turned 21.
Seating is cramped and guests are helped over the table onto the benches against the scribbled-on walls. This proved a lot of fun for girls in heels and dresses trying to clamber over the tables without people seeing up their skirts. Upon seating and making ourselves comfortable, we were given a small glass of sweet wine and a platter of olives, cheeses, chorizo, ham and pickle. This was a very generous introduction and got us excited and in the mood for our fondues. The choice is between cheese and bread or meat cooked in oil. As there were 4 of us, we chose both.
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The cheese fondue was delicious and not too rich. The only let down to the cheese fondue was the stale bread. I went to Le Refuge two weeks prior to this visit in mid July and the quality of the bread was the same. I'm not sure why this is, in a country where bread is an essential component to their meals and baguettes are easily accessible. You each get a metal poker to dip your bread into the cheese and swirl it around. At certain points my friend and I were using the spoon! Very ladylike..
For the meat fondue, we were given a very generous bowl of fresh red meat that we left to rest on the side in the inner corner of our fondue of hot oil to let the meat cook to our preference. They also give you a selection of four sauces to dip the meat in and a small bowl of soft cooked potatoes to cook further in the hot oil. Delicious.
This bustling foodie spot is famous for their presentation of wine; and I think it's the only restaurant I'm familiar with that serves wine in baby bottles. It is bizarre, but lots of fun. I like the playfulness of this as it is quite a contrast from a lot of the pretentiousness that Parisian culture is known for.
The fixed price of 21 Euros for each fondue includes the appetisers and wine is roughly around 4 or 5 euros. Split between 4 of us, it came to about 24 euros each which is very reasonable for the amount of food we received and weren't able to finish. The atmosphere here is buzzing; you are sat in such close proximity to others guests that you usually end up chatting to them and making friends with other travellers who are also looking for a good laugh. We met a couple from Edinburgh and two girls travelling from Colorado. The restaurant is open until 2am every day; this is most likely due to the fact that the French prefer to dine later in the evening around 9pm -10pm and also because Cheese and Meat Fondue would seem like the perfect dinner option after a few drinks at one of the neighbouring bars.
The service was also very good but be reminded that they only take cash as payment.This is the place to go if you're with a group of friends on holiday; family members may not appreciate having to climb over tables to sit down and if you are on a date you may struggle to hear everything.