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The Refinery (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Refinery in Borough & Southwark, London

Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, Borough & Southwark, London, SE1 0TF
Cuisine: Bar Average Price: £45.00
Tel: Not on file | Email to The Refinery | Transport: Southwark | Write review

The Refinery Review

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Heading into the centre of a deserted Southwark on a Tuesday night is quite a strange thing to do. The streets were pretty much empty, except for a few harassed-looking souls heading towards the tube station and a lone café owner bringing in his chalkboards for the night. It was cold and windy, and the sense of almost post-apocalyptic desertion was only emphasised by the warm, cosy pubs crammed full of happy looking drunks that we passed on the way to the restaurant. Walking past them went against all my natural instincts. Anyone with any sense was quite obviously tucked up inside somewhere – probably under a blanket or something – and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit scared that we’d end up being the only people in the restaurant, surrounded by overeager waiters watching our every mouthful.

The Refinery is part of the Blue Fin building (don’t get your hopes up, I can’t even begin to tell you how utterly disappointed I was to discover that the building didn’t resemble a huge underground shark), a media and business office block based on the South Bank of the Thames and just two minutes from the Tate Modern. Thankfully, my lone diner fears were completely unfounded and what we actually found was a busy, sleek-looking bar and restaurant. Although perhaps maybe a little too sleek?

That probably sounds like I’m being picky, but under close inspection The Refinery was actually styled to within an inch of its life. It was the equivalent of seeing a really handsome man and then realising he’s got perfectly manicured nails and no wrinkles. Suddenly everything felt a little contrived, and what was originally: “Ooh how lovely, we’ve got a little pot of basil on our table!” soon became: “Well of course we have a pot of basil on our table. It’s been put there, in its perfect little hessian sack, to make the place look all fresh and rustic and welcoming. Do they think we’re stupid?” I stopped short of screaming “Well you can’t trick me, basil!” while dashing it to the floor in a blind rage. It’s possible to pay too much attention to these things. And anyway, I love basil.

I also love wooden floors, exposed pipes, Chinese-style screens, padded booths, mismatched chairs, chalkboards, chandeliers, oversized light bulbs, baroque mirrors, leather sofas, glass staircases and marble bathrooms. And, although I probably shouldn’t, I really really love them when they’re all put altogether. It’s as if in trying to satisfy everyone, they’ve pulled together a collection of modern styles that really shouldn’t work, but somehow does. It’s not pretentious – although it teeters dangerously on the brink – simply because it feels so relaxed. It’s essentially a posh city version of a comfortable country pub. Instead of ruddy-faced locals in muddy boots the customers are suited and booted, but there’s the same laid-back atmosphere, with the large comfortable bar area (did I mention that yet?) full of people drinking and laughing, and the restaurant full of groups and couples chatting over their food.

Having re-evaluated our surroundings and relaxed a little we ordered some delicious drinks. I had a lovely white wine chosen for me because that’s the sort of thing I do you know, while my dining companion (that sounds very grand!) ordered a London Pride (that sounds less grand). I can’t begin to tell you how impressed he was that the waiter bought an Adnams over instead because the Pride was ‘a little cloudy’. This set the standard for the rest of the evening – the waiters were without exception charming, friendly and extremely eager to please. The menu was a pleasant surprise – it’s essentially pub food, with burgers, stacked sandwiches and sharing platters dominating much of the choice – but at extremely reasonable prices for the city. I started with a honey glazed parsnip soup, and realised halfway through that actually, I’m not a massive fan of parsnip. Not my best dining decision. But it was all uphill from there – both the butternut squash risotto and the spaghetti were beautiful (and the portions were immense!), and the puddings were equally delicious. If I had one gripe, it would be that the apple crumble was actually a berry crumble – lovely, but not what I was expecting.

We finished off the evening as I firmly believe all evenings should finish – with some cocktails over in the bar area. The bar itself had emptied out a little and we were able to sit down in the comfy and very low sofas to discuss the finer points of life, the universe and everything. We got quite a lot covered, actually. After doing a bit of investigating, it turns out that The Refinery isn’t usually that busy on a Tuesday night – 30 people were in for a private party in the bar and a further 65 covers had turned up for dinner throughout the evening without booking ahead. The real testament to the staff, both front and back of house, is that they coped with it beautifully, and we were completely unaware of there being any extra pressure on them. Very impressive indeed.

We also discovered that the similarities between The Refinery and a lovely little pub aren’t as surprising as you might think. While it gives the impression of being an independent, it is actually the first in a chain being introduced across London by Drake and Morgan, putting it firmly in gastropub territory. But with no bleached pine in sight, friendly staff, decent food and a great location, it’s one that I’d recommend. A destination pub it ain’t, but if you’re in the area, and don’t fancy spending £4 on a Pret sandwich, The Refinery is a great place to chew the fat – proverbially, of course.
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Customer Reviews for The Refinery

Average (based on 1 votes): 1 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The Refinery.

“It's got a nice menu and good range of drinks but plonked on the bottom of the IPC Media building, the decor doens't take away from the officey atmosphere. No matter how busy it gets, and it does get very busy, there's never much of a buzz”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Polly, London (9 years 7 months 7 days ago)

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Loved

"Extremely RUDE staff Joanna who is GROSS and Uneducated and very unprofessional!! She is jealous of white customers and refuses to serve them. This Rude Joanna is disgraceful and mental!! She is NOT FIT..." Which venue is this?

Hated

"Extremely RUDE staff Joanna who is GROSS and Uneducated and very unprofessional!! She is jealous of white customers and refuses to serve them. This Rude Joanna is disgraceful and mental!! She is NOT FIT..." Which venue is this?

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