Nestled deep in the heart of the fashionable district of Spinningfields, Manchester, housed in the newly built XYZ Building you’ll stumble upon The Refinery, a trendy restaurant and bar that has taken the area by storm. Owned and operated by the London bar group Drake & Morgan, this quirky yet divine venue has rapidly become a fan favourite with the locals and myself.
Part of The Refinery chain, there other venues being in Edinburgh and a number across London, it opened its doors in late November and hasn’t looked backed. What struck me first was just how friendly every member of staff was and what was really refreshing was it wasn’t that kind of friendliness that’s just forced, a welcome surprise. As a man of creature comforts I found the sheepskin throws on all the chairs – even those outside- an excellent touch. The decor is your standard modern bar concept of exposed pipes, low hanging filament bulbs and shelves filled with all manner of strange ornaments that you never see anywhere actually on sale but they decorate every bar. The variety of seating options adds another element of unusualness that very subtly separates the large venue into different sections.
The long bar is more than adequately stocked for any discerning drinking, with one of the best cocktail menus I’ve seen in the city for some time. As I settle in to a sample the bars delights, just a brief glance at the menu tells me I’m in for a great afternoon. I begin with a Negroni, a fan favourite of mine and the drink I use to test just how good the bartenders are and I can honestly say these guys blew me away. Whilst the Negroni is a simple drink to make, its incredibly easy to ruin but this was perfectly balanced, well garnished and presented, we are off to a flying start.
Whilst sipping away the lunch time rush breezed in; located in the heart of a busy business and financial area of the city, there is no shortage of hungry office workers to keep the staff on their toes. The food options are your standard burgers, salads and sandwiches that you’ve expect to find with a fine selection of steaks as well. The food smells, looks and importantly tastes incredible, feeling a little peckish I order the “d&m favoruite” braised beef shin served with polenta and melt in your mouth is an understatement. Cooked to perfection the flavours blended seamlessly and it was seasoned just right, I can certainly see why it’s a favourite.
I find myself without a drink, so I correct the situation with another cocktail. This time I move to the “inspired” section: classics with a twist. Now, full disclosure, I loathe these sections on menus, they’re usually banal and bland drinks that overcomplicate presentation to avoid people noticing just how bad the drink is; however The Refinery have certainly brought their A-game. I am somewhat spoilt for choice, so I ask the bartender which he would recommend and without hesitation he recommended La Magia, a curious combination of Don Julio tequila, lime, agave and Butterfly-pea tea. Served effortlessly in a coupe glass and accompanying shot for you to mix yourself, it certainly didn’t disappoint on the presentation with the distinctive blue to purple Butterfly-pea tea liquor – that really saw a comeback over the summer months last year – making it quite the head-turner at the bar. At first sip it seemed a lot to take, you’re hit straight away by the warming tequila, it certainly packs a punch, but then the sweetness of the agave settles the flavours bringing out the zingy lime, it really is a quite the drink.
Time to shake things up, time for a “heritage” drinks that are apparently “part of the d&m DNA”, I get a feeling these are going to be something special. Looking at the list one immediately jumps out that I just have to order: Goldfish in Bag. A connotation of Tanqueray, Hanger One vodka, tonic and rosemary. Served on the rocks, this drink is a lot of fun. The Hanger One is a great choice in spirit, a Californian vodka, distilled overlooking San Francisco, which has notes of pear and honeysuckle that aren’t drowned out but compliment the Tanqueray better than I expected. The aroma of rosemary leaves you wanting more and with just the right amount of tonic this has shot straight into my list of favourites. Now I know you want to know why it’s called Goldfish in a Bag well, the drink is served over the rocks but clipped to the rim of the glass is a goldfish fashioned out of an orange peel, it’s certainly visually pleasing and again has turned a few heads.
My afternoon quickly descended and became quite a blur at one point. A bottle of the vintage Pommery Gran Cru, slipped down an absolute treat and I do have to admit the wine list is second to none even in the bubbles department it really doesn’t let itself down. I can tell a lot of thought has really gone into their wine selection much to the delight patrons.
Overall I have to say this bar can only go from great to exceptional, one thing I loved about my visit was how “non-chain” it felt, from start to finish I felt like I was in an independent restaurant and again a special mention to the staff, these people didn’t stop the entire time, a great testament to the place. Situated in a prime location, with great drinks and lovely food I couldn’t recommend this place more. It really is perfectly illustrating the change that can be seen throughout Manchester we need more places like this.
Peter C. Barnes
The Refinery Spinningfields
G1 XYZ Building,
2 Hardman Boulevard,