A charred shell is all that remains of the popular Le Château à Pape, a Moncton restaurant known for its food and homey atmosphere, after a fire on the weekend.

The historic building's construction, including a metal roof, made fighting the blaze, which broke out around 12:40 a.m. Saturday, more difficult, Moncton Fire Chief Eric Arsenault said Monday.

"In this case, it was like fighting a fire in an oven," he said. "There was just no way of getting the heavy gasses and smoke out of the building.

"Anybody who's seen some of the videos on You Tube, you could actually see puffs of fire coming out through the eaves. That's because it couldn't burn itself through the roof."

The building's many renovations also made fighting the fire a challenge, Arsenault said.

Firefighters tried to fight the fire inside the building for two hours, he said, but the blaze was too intense.

Arsenault said the fire started in the kitchen, but they're still trying to pinpoint the exact location.

"We'll let the investigators complete their work, and, hopefully, in a couple of days, we should be able to give more information," he said.

Ken Thibodeau was one of many people who stopped by Monday to take a look at the damage caused by the fire.

"It's a shame that we lost it," Thibodeau said. "I hope they rebuild it again; it'd be nice. I've had my Christmas party there with work two years in a row, and I can't complain about the food and the atmosphere."

The restaurant has been in the Gosselin family for four generations, and current owner Pierre Gosselin said he's still in shock.

Meanwhile, Daniel Allain, executive director of the downtown business association, said everything will be done to help the business.  

"We want to make sure that the family and the employees are taken care of first and from there, we'll move on, and we'll try and develop a plan one way or another," Allain said.

A police officer first noticed smoke coming from the two-storey building and called the fire department. But by then, the fire had spread through the building, which was built in 1902 and had been designated a Local Historic Place in Moncton.