Roll up! Roll up! All the fun of the fair – New summer menu and fairground cocktails at The Refinery | 110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0TF
We have been working above The Refinery for years in the iconic Blue Fin Building, just behind the Tate Modern in the heart of london’s Bankside. Finally we’ve got round to getting down there together to have a meal, rather than a swift after-work drink. The Refinery is part of the Drake and Morgan bar group, of which we’ve been to all five, and look forward to visiting their new baby, The Happenstance, which opens late June. All the bars have the same vibe and serve from the same menu, but all have a subtle twist with their interior design and styling. They have their own definite identity but are also very familiar… It’s a bit like how the Thai people explain the different regions of their beautiful country, ‘All same-same, but different’.
Of these five, we have a couple of favourites… The Folly, we love the way they have divided up this cavernous space into separate, even intimate, areas. But it’s The Refinery that we visit most often, purely based on its location. Over the last four years or so The Refinery has been the venue for many a birthday, sneaky lunchtime drink or, more recently, leaving dos! But this time we’re here to try their new spring/summer menu and, more excitedly, the incredible looking fairground themed cocktails…
As mentioned above, the interiors of all the Drake and Morgan restaurants and bars have a theme. Think industrial with a vintage feel, high ceilings, polished concrete, school furniture, mix and match dainty bone china crockery and ornate silver cutlery – all very cool.
Now then, on to the actual food and drink… The waiter explained to us what was new to the menu and at least 30% is. So if you’ve been before there’s plenty of new dishes to sample. Even some of the old favourites have been tweaked, for example all the burger buns are now made in the nearby Borough Market using cream – it makes them ‘stronger’ apparently.
But most importantly, we were here for the ‘Roll up! Roll up!’, ‘Scream if you want to go faster’ and ‘2 tickets to the gun show’ cocktails… We’d seen the pictures doing the rounds on twitter and they looked GOOD!
I had to try the Goldfish in a bag, £8.95, little bird gin, hangar one mandarin vodka, rhubarb bitters, pink grapefruit ‘fish’, fever-tree tonic & edible lily pads. All served in a clear plastic bag, such a genius idea! The mandarin vodka and rhubarb bitters added extra depth to what in essence is a fancy gin & tonic.
Saff ordered the Princess sparkler, £7.95, a beautiful twist on a classic crusta with ketel one vodka, maraschino, fresh lemon & bubbles sweetened with grenadine. A really refreshing drink, the sugar rim made it feel like drinking liquid Haribo.
Later during the meal we picked a sharing cocktail from the ‘2 tickets to the gun show’ section. We went for the Rub-a-dub-shrub, £19.95 and serves 2-3 people, although I could have drank it all by myself! (he reckons! – Saff).
They cranked up the fun factor again, the cocktail was delivered in a miniature ceramic bathtub complete with a mini green rubber duck… This vodka based drink’s primary flavour was from the fresh watermelon juice but there was a subtle hit from their homemade strawberry vinegar. (P.S. You can buy the mini bathtubs for £20).
Before we move onto the food we have to point out that apart from the cocktails they serve a stunning range of wines. From £3.75 for a glass of Long Beach Chenin Blanc right up to £115 for a bottle of Puligny Montrachet Puligny Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 1er Cru Bartelet de Cherisey.
Right, food time! We ordered a couple of starters, or small plates as they are called nowadays… I wanted the Prawn popcorn with a chilli dip, £6.95, hoping they would be like the old-school breaded garlic mushrooms we had as a childhood treat in the early 80s! And I was right, the deep-fried breaded prawns had the same crunch. What was different was the chilli dip – a salty soy hit and then the chilli gets you.
Saff’s Prosciutto, mint and fig crostini (£6.95) was sweet and fresh, the ham was of good quality and the bread hadn’t lost it’s crunch as can quite easily happen. Saff said it reminded her of a great pizza she had recently in Vapiano.
Picking a main was a much trickier affair… I really fancied a burger, all their Scottish beef is supplied by Allens of Mayfair plus I wanted to try the buns. But as we were off to the new branch of The Diner on Gloucester Road the next day I thought better of it. Anyway the roasted English lamb rump with pumpkin mash, £12.95 sounded too good to pass. We don’t usually cook lamb at home as Saff doesn’t really enjoy it, so I order lamb whenever I can and I’m glad I did. The pumpkin mash was excellent too, creamy and sweet.
Saff did go for a burger, the roasted Teriyaki Atlantic salmon burger, £9.99 (she knew she was going to order the fried chicken and waffles the following evening). The salmon was a slippery little sucker, it shot out of the bun with every movement. However it was cooked perfectly, and it made a refreshing, slightly healthier alternative to a beef patty.
There are plenty of new sides too, I had the Chinese cabbage, tahini and sesame seeds), £4.95. (Tahini is a Middle Eastern pantry essential. It’s used in many Middle Eastern recipes, like hummus and baba ghanoush). This raw cabbage side is definitely an acquired taste and deceptively filling too. The tahini somehow sucks all moisture out of your mouth but I couldn’t help going back for more!
Saff went for the Samurai fries, £4.25 from the ‘Tatties’ section. These are basically chunky chips coated in katsu sauce. Again, the sauce left our mouthes feeling quite odd, had this been the katsu sauce from the neighbouring Tsuru, this would have been heaven.
So on to dessert, I was tempted by the ‘Liquid Desserts’ especially the salted caramel milkshake, £7.50. But after the success story that is The Ship‘s grilled pineapple I decided to opt for Roast Pineapple, £4.95. The caramelised sliced pineapple was served warm coated in a syrup. The real star of the show though was the rum and raisin mascarpone, I could have eaten a bucket full.
Saffron had her favourite – Creme brûlée, £4.95, the difference being this was a toffee apple version. She was satisfied with the caramel crunch (vital) and the delicate apple flavour. But she was a little disappointed with the texture, too mousse-like. I was more disappointed that it didn’t come with the advertised homemade apple fudge.
We ladled the last of the Rub-a-dub-shrub cocktail into our tea cups and left with full bellies and a slightly wobbly walk to make our oh so familiar journey back home via Waterloo East station. Oh by the way, if you fancy the chance of getting your mitts on a ticket for the opening party of The Happenstance, then click here … Good luck!
110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0TF
Telephone 0845 468 0186
Monday to Friday – 9am till late
Saturday from 10am – with club night from 10pm
Sunday 10am to 6pm.
Nearest tubes: Southwark & London Bridge