There seems to be a constant buzz surrounding the newly renovated Refuge Restaurant Lounge, and with good reason as the owners have spared no ingenuity to bring this new place to life. Between the parties, the atmosphere and the overall newness of the place, there seems to be much more in store for them. There has been a lot of chatter in Foodieverse about the restaurant, so much so that it was more a matter of when I would go rather than if I would. So, as it goes, I mentally opened up a button on my jeans and headed over to Sunset Beach. It is child-friendly, which was really convenient, because my nephew was with me. Thus, armed with an empty stomach and a five-year-old, I was ready to finally experience The Refuge and find out if it was worth the hype.
The first impression of a restaurant is always its décor and atmosphere. There was a noticeable difference as I walked from the brightly lit parking lot and stepped into the restaurant. From the moment you step into The Refuge, the lighting is softer and the ambiance consumes you as if to say, “Relax, we know what we’re doing.” I can’t decide if my favourite part was the falling water screen and pool combo, or being seated over the water – I’m a sucker for a view. Let us take a moment to appreciate the world wonder that is a restaurant on a cliff situated directly next to a world famous beach where planes land. Yes, it’s an experience worth having. If it’s your first time there and you or your little one is prone to being chilly, I suggest you dress warmly. We weren’t prepared and the staffers were kind enough to provide a sweater for my nephew when he mentioned he was cold.
The staffers, who I am now obsessed with, are incredibly attentive. There was a point in time that I had to look around to see if it was only me receiving this treatment, but they are generally very pleasant and observant with everyone. Looks of pleasure and wonderment were plastered on the faces of others as well, and it made me wonder if my passionfruit margarita was playing tricks on me. Have I mentioned their margaritas are the size of a small child, and if you so desire can be served in an entire pitcher with a straw.
The menu is short and concise with simple, but tasty options. I saw it and thought, “What diet”? The appetizers were easy enough to choose, because I was in the mood for seafood. The crispy calamari was my first choice, it’s a simple enough dish, but many chefs overthink it and get a rubbery mess and/or greasy batter. In addition to the calamari, I chose the seafood lollipops, for the name. They sounded interesting. There was barely any wait time for the appetizers, which is probably because the night was quiet, but it was appreciated. The calamari and lollipops were cooked perfectly. I looked for signs of too much grease or batter and found none; and the seafood was the right side of tender and the coconut curry sauce was the right balance of savoury and exotic. Time must be a moment taken to appreciate the presentation. The Refuge has an aversion to basic plating and it’s amazing. My lollipops came skewered into a wooden plank next to miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower and ceramic clogs.
After having the appetizers, I wasn’t certain what I wanted, so I sought answers from the chef, who suggested the Cowboy Rib Eye and the Farfalle Giuseppe Verde. Both dishes were ordered and I would usually have the steak, but I chose heads and ended up being the one with the Farfalle Giuseppe Verde. It is a combination of bowtie pasta, shrimp, cherry tomatoes, spinach, fresh basil garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Parmesan is optional, but you should take advantage of it. I was halfway in between mouthgasms with my shrimp dish when I had a bite of that oh-so-tender Rib Eye. There was another bite, then another, until my hand was shewed away.
There is a special place in the Great Beyond for chefs who pay such special attention to their side vegetables, which were grilled just enough to be cooked, but still retained their original crunch. Zucchini isn’t my favourite vegetable, but I would eat it every day if it’s coming from the kitchen at The Refuge. The things the chef does with sides are incredible. If there is anything you do try, make sure the mashed potato is one of them. Pesto mashed potato is a solid 10. As if I wasn’t hooked enough, dessert showed up. They recreated half a coconut using a lightly whipped coconut mousse with a genius chocolate shell and garnished the plate with a refreshing pineapple and guavaberry salad. I don’t know how I’ll get back to my regular life after this.
#2 Beacon Road, Maho
Phone: + 1 (721) 545-2084
Open: 6:00pm to 3:00am
Cuisine: Italian with a Caribbean flare
Price range: $$
Credit Cards, Cash
Reservations: Not necessary, but suggested
Staff friendliness: *****
Service speed: *****
Restaurant cleanliness: *****
Food quality: *****
Value for money: *****