Posted on Tuesday, 8th May 2012
I loved the décor at The Refinery Bar with its elegant industrial take on urban dining. Its use of floor to ceiling glass windows has also helped to create an airy, light and gracious space, and its use of colour and texture added to its comfort. The Refinery Bar is a visually arresting restaurant. Situated on Southwark Street right behind the Tate Modern, it is well positioned to service museum goers.
The menu is varied with a selection of plates for sharing, nibbles, sandwiches, burgers, mains and steaks. There is also a large selection of cocktails to choose from, including a variety of Bloody Mary type cocktails. I went for the Crystal Mary martini (£7.95) which was so fiery from the Tabasco that I found it too harsh on my palate. But this was made good with an excellent Russian rose martini (£6.95). The drink was well balanced and smooth which helped it go down a treat. Also impressive was the large selection of wines on the drinks menu that you could order by the glass and in varying measures.
The soft shell crab (£7.95) was tasty, and there was a good crunchiness to the batter. But what was perplexing was that it was served with a mayo rather than the caramelised onion and sherry vinaigrette listed on the menu.
I didn’t understand the concept behind the starters of salmon ceviche (£6.95) with dried lemon, coriander and chilli, or the crab ceviche (£6.95) with pink grapefruit and ginger. To be honest, we didn’t order the crab ceviche. The kitchen sent it out by mistake so the waitress generously left the dish with us rather than throw it out – a nice touch I thought. Anyway, ceviche typically incorporates the use of raw seafood and relies on the acidity of citrus juices to marinate (and in essence cook) the seafood. Neither dish had any citrus juices in them, nor was the crab raw. Both dishes lacked seasoning, and while the salmon was lovely and fresh, the crab was not fresh. The cooked prawns in the crab ceviche dish were quite tasty, but otherwise, both the ceviche dishes were very poor.
Steaks of rib-eye steak (£18.95) and sirloin (£14.95) were nicely cooked to the requested medium rare and were decently sized, but could have done with more seasoning. The quality of the steaks was decent and reasonable enough for what they cost. The surf-and-turf addition of lobster with the rib-eye was flavoursome and nicely cooked, and the sides of chips were good and crunchy. Accompanying sauces of béarnaise and blue cheese had a good consistency and flavour.
A blackforest knickerblocker glory (£6.95) in a massive tall glass was decadently filled with yummy ice cream, cherries, cream and chocolate-y brownie bits and was rather satisfying.
The crumble on a blackberry and apple crumble (£4.95) was quite fine with a good crunch to it. The apple could have been cooked longer for a softer effect, but I liked the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet. In this respect, there was a good balance in this dessert.
The service was disorganised and extremely slow on our arrival, even if it was very friendly and pleasant. We were told that these delays were due to a fire alarm going off at The Tate which led to a mass exodus of people rushing into The Refinery. Whatever the story, matters did improve during the latter part of our meal.
This was a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the seafood we tried was good, some not. The meats fared better but needed more seasoning. The desserts were yummy and the drinks menus offered lots of choice and variety.
I suppose one doesn’t go to The Refinery for gourmet food, but I think it has a rightful place as a casual brunch restaurant if you happen to be by the Tate, especially with its good range of drinks choices. Just choose carefully.
I dined as a guest of The Refinery.
Food rating: 2.5/5
Service rating: 3/5
Price range: £20 – £40 for three courses. Excludes drinks and service.