The Drake and Morgan group has cornered the market in terms of targeting upscale, affluent business workers and this was in evidence on a recent visit to The Refinery in Bankside. There are a number of dining and bar options in that area, but which venue was the busiest and filled with satisfied customers? By some distance, it was The Refinery.
The reason for their success is because of a number of factors. Rather than just being an expensive, opulent city bar, they like to add quirky, fun touches. Currently, their alfresco terrace has been transformed into a little slice of Havana complete with comfortable couches, deck chairs and a giant screen showing the best from the Rio Olympics. There is a barcardi pop-up bar as well as a peroni one. No doubt this area will be transformed again into a cosy, heated warm terrace area as the weather becomes colder in the coming months.
They are not fixated on one type of cuisine here, but whatever appeals to their clientele, they are happy to offer on their menus: so you will see Asian dishes, meze boards alongside rib-eye steaks and beer-battered fish and chips. I tried the prawn lollipops which were juicy and crunchy at the same time and the chilli and soy dip was the ideal foil for the oiliness from the batter. My only issue? it tasted so good, I would have preferred a few more lollipop sticks.
Was the Thai coconut curry with prawns authentic? Probably not, it is unusual to see sweet potatoes used in curries in Thailand. They are mostly grilled and eaten as it is. The curry wasn’t that thick in composition, but did that stop our enjoyment of the dish? Absolutely not. The prawns were plump and juicy, the sweet potatoes made the dish more filling and the curry made the rice more digestible.
Continuing the theme of picking non-typical, non-British options, I chose the strawberry and mint Pavlova. It was beautifully presented, just the right portion-size and refreshingly summery in taste. The meringue was delicate, frothy and buttery in texture; just the ideal way to have a sweet ending to your meal.
Cocktail wise they have seasonal changes to please their drinkers and diners: I tried a light, invigorating cocktail with barcardi, cucumber and lime with the glass washed with a hint of absinthe. It probably would have matched a salad better than a curry, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the rum concoction.
If you want a bar and restaurant that always gives an assured performance and spot-on service every time, then The Refinery Bankside must be high on your list for consideration.