Making itself comfy down on the ground floor of the huge Blue Fin Building in the heart of Bankside, The Refinery is ideally located to deal with the after work thirst pangs of the media professionals working nearby. Such was the wall of voices that hit us when we rocked up there on a Friday night before we were swiftly plucked out of the sea of merry drinkers and relocated into the calmer dining area.
The bar area at The Refinery on Southwark Street
The Venue and Atmosphere
With opening hours from 9am to late most days, The Refinery is a jack-of-all trades, mastering brunch, cocktails, dinner and sometimes even club nights all in a day's work. On a Friday night, it was alive with workers letting of some steam after a hard week's work. However, if you're looking for a quieter meal, the huge space means that it can be segregated into different areas. We did see one lone diner looking a little awkward as her personal space was invaded by overly gesticulating drinkers that had broken ranks. However, generally, the babble of drinkers are kept a little away from those dining whilst still providing a comforting background noise.
Décor-wise, high ceilings and exposed metal ducts are mingled with retro, mismatched chairs and a penchant for putting clothes pegs on everything to create a cross breed of steampunk and 70s domesticity that somehow strangely works.
The Refinery prides itself on sourcing local, organic and seasonal produce
Food and Drinks
Channeling the venue’s chameleon-like versatility, the menu has sharing boards, bar snacks and full meals to fit differing hunger levels. Our antipasto board (£9.95) came quirkily presented on a brown paper sheet accompanied by sharpie scribbles pointing out the types of meat, with the Serrano ham being the firm winner.
For mains, I went for the flambé sea bass with creamed cabbage which, on seeing the flambé trolley trundled out and a first aid kit placed comfortingly on our table, turned out to be a great choice. The ensuing flames definitely adding some much needed rock’n’roll theatrics to a dish whose primary component is cabbage. My friend went for braised pork cheeks with mash (£9.95) which I was assured was homely and comforting.
One of the highlights of The Refinery is its extensive and innovative cocktail menu
Whilst the food is well priced, you can tell that the drinks menu is The Refinery’s real pride and joy. Filled with beer and wine taste wheels and bloody mary infographics, the menu is so large that it has its own contents page. I went for the refreshing mango mojito (£7.95) and ‘chocolate flip’ beer cocktail (£6.50) which despite having chocolate bitters, chocolate stout and egg all mingled in was not overpoweringly sweet and only had a nice, subtle taste of beer.
You only need to walk past and hear the chatter of excitable voices to see that The Refinery does a lot more than merely rely on its great location. Instead, it offers very reasonably priced food and innovative cocktails in a venue that's perfectly conducive to kicking up your heels amongst a buzzing crowd after a day on the grind.