Party people who are easily distracted by hearty portions of food, tennis, Top Gun reruns, table tennis, deckchairs and randomly placed, hard to categorise items
Southwark eccentrics gathering in large groups for catch ups, work functions and/or nothing in particular
Romantic couples/potential romantic couples who don’t mind shouting (instead of whispering) sweet nothings into each other’s ears in an environment that would, volume permitting, be quite romantic in an… industrial way.
In A Word
Refined and Redefined…
It is a midsummer Friday night, bathed in sunlight, and truly the perfect day to get lost on the Southbank. I am headed to The Fable, looking forward to what Drake & Morgan‘s first property has to offer and suffering severely from limited sleep and having been travelling the south East since 7AM this morning. I need to let off some steam, but I also need to stay awake to do so…
Like the rest of my limited experiences of Drake & Morgan’s properties, upon arrival I notice that The Refinery is heaving with people and alive with activity. We appear at 7, as is our custom, and the people have spilled out from the inside onto the adjacent pavement, drinking, lounging in deck chairs and generally looking like they’re making the most of their Friday. This sets a good precedent, and we manage to find a spare table (the restaurant area is a little less full)
Look around and perhaps you ponder… possibly it was an actual refinery, possibly something to do with sugar, a thus possibly… a sugar refinery. [Ed: not sure if legit]
It has an industrial look to it, though as they do, Drake & Morgan have ‘humanised’ the place with lots of little touches – many tennis themed, some food related, and some that are just well…uncategorisable.
To me, this means the place feels…interactive – going towards (but not quite arriving at) the feel of a playground built with adults in mind. There’s table tennis, and lots of things around that you can pick up (well, I assume you can pick them up).
Though Drake & Morgan’s menu is consistent across each of their seven properties, there are daily changes in the form of the Daily Specials. I’m not sure if they all have the same special, or if it’s different for each one but it’s a lot of stuff (including a cocktail) that changes on a daily basis. The menu and drinks selection is also quite large, so even having visited them a fair few times now, I’ve yet to repeat myself.
The venue attracts all sorts. Earlier in the night there’s a woman with a baby in a pram (the baby does not cry) – this woman is eating and presumably enjoying time with her tiny creation. Later on, things get a bit louder and there’s a mid 30s crowd getting merry and dancing (well, half dancing, half standing and drinking – sometimes both at once) to reggae and later, to 80s classics.
Then some older people out front playing table tennis, And, almost wherever you are, you can smell the kitchen, where steak is the predominant smell. Another good precedence.
As I said, the menu is consistent, and the quality is consistent too. Sure, they’d like you to think that they’re shabby chic and all that, but in hospitality terms…it’s quite slick. There’s been some ruthless calculations going on here and it pays off in food that I have yet to not enjoy.
Despite me having not eaten all day, Greta and I both managed to create a significant food coma from the following. Initial plans for dessert were defeated in a haze of digestion and the realisation of missing the last train to Belmont. AUHAHU
Here’s what we ate, anyway…
Sweet potato & potato
The regular potato chunks in this are so-so. These really are quite massive chunks. Essentially, giant wedges – and pretty satisfying…
It’s soft, sweet and has an almost honeyed taste. There were also leaves and other things, that tasted good, but I forget them because I was fixated on said squash.
Seared Tuna Salad
A mighty salad. Seared on the outside, rare on the inside, the tuna bit was fantastic. But a salad is more than just seared fishies. There’s also some kind of oddly desaturated beetroot that I’m not so keen on, and some somewhat watery potatoes. There’s also chickpeas and beansprouts.
Thai Green Curry (with both chicken and fish just because)
And yes, in terms of Thai curries, it wasn’t doing anything revolutionary – but the optional white fish that you can order it with was amazing.
Not so much for the chicken leg it came with, but that’s because I kinda hate chicken legs (I was hoping for chicken breast). Also there’s rice – which you, presumably, slam into the Thai curry to enhance the experience.
Mac & Cheese
GRETA: I was surprised by how mellow it was to the taste buds, being low in salt and very creamy. I kept mixing it up with all the other meals on our table which made for a great side. I can now see the appeal of Mac’n’cheese, it gives those warm feels like a friendly hug, or it might just be me being an emotional eater.
Chinese Noodle Salad
GRETA: It was intense, and I very much devoured the crispy duck, foraging around for it in the salad was a rewarding activity – a meal requiring your full attention, no time for looking around at strategically placed décor (which by the way makes for pleasant short bursts of amusement, when one is not served the noodle fun).
JACK: Everything I was hoping for, really.
Great food, reasonable prices, consistent experience, fun atmosphere…all of the easily reachable tennis memorabilia I could require. People asking me to take their photograph and not giving me a contact email to send it to
Caveats: The background music is much too loud in the dining area, and it seems at one point the staff forgets about us, sitting in the corner, crying out for water and a little D&M TLC. Also if you’re looking for a more quiet, ‘low key’ meal – The Refinery’s buzz and atmosphere is not for you.
That aside I would happily return for their film screenings, more of their ‘Great British Summer’ and the their Chateaubriand. Also the cocktails have yet to be experienced…
110 Southwark Street, Southwark SE1 0TF
0845 468 0186