As someone who has written so many reviews of restaurants around the world, I feel I have missed an opportunity by not going to Le Refuge, which is only a few blocks from where I live until recently. With a senior level U.S government official visiting me from overseas who speaks fluent French and lived in France for five years, I thought I would show off what others had told me is a true treasure in Old Town: Le Refuge.
It is as others have described in their accounts: a delightful French bistro, cozy and authentic, right in the heart of Old Town. The menu presents choices for all palates, the atmosphere is wonderful for intimate conversation or group gossip, and the wine list provides plenty of choices.
Now for the problem, and for me it was inexcusable and embarrassing. We reserved for a Saturday evening at 8pm. When we arrived, there was no table available. The restaurant is so small there is no waiting area, so we had to stand in the tiny entry as waiters who were serving people outside came in and out. It was truly uncomfortable. After twenty minutes in the doorway, they put together a makeshift table for us near the kitchen. After another twenty minutes, we were finally seated.
What I found particularly alarming was that there were no apologies, no complementary drinks offered....nothing. It was as if this normal for a Saturday evening, and perhaps it is.
With this in mind, I would urge that those who wish to come to Le Refuge on a weekend, especially if you are more than a couple, reserve for either early or late. Peak hours are clearly a problem for them and there is simply no spill over area, no bar, no lounge, no waiting area.
I regret I must write this, but I am always honest in my reviews, whether they relate to hotels, restaurants or attractions. I don't see how I can return to Le Refuge after this experience. Old Town has so many choices of excellent restaurants, and I will continue to provide reviews as I sample as many of them as I can.