Dinner at The Refuge – They’ve Just Got it so Right

We were very excited about eating at The Refuge Restaurant at the newly renovated Palace Hotel.

We’re big fans of Volta which is also run by the Unabomber DJs so we had high expectations! Especially in the stunning surroundings of this iconic revamped Victorian building.

We weren’t disappointed, the interior is understated and contemporary, and still sympathetic to it’s Victorian origins.  It’s pure class – and given that it’s a large historic hotel, it could very easily feel stuffy and formal, but it’s far from it – it’s superbly chilled.

Apart from the beautiful restaurant there’s a large and equally stunning bar area, and a delightful winter garden which is a bit like a very cool conservatory.

The Refuge 1
The bar area
The Refuge 2
The winter garden

And yes the surroundings were fantastic, but you need more than that to be an exceptional restaurant – it’s the whole package that made our experience so right – because the service was wonderfully warm and the food was exceptional.

From the minute we walked into the venue, every member of staff was so attentive, but in a genuine way that made you feel very relaxed and happy to be there.

We had a lovely Northern Irish waiter who was delightfully helpful and just incredibly likeable.  He talked us through our options and we committed to sharing plates.  Within what appeared to be minutes of ordering our six plates arrived in succession.

And oh my goodness they were good:

  1. Black daal – yum – the ginger and spices gave it a real depth of flavour.
  2. Wild bass ceviche, perfumed fruit, coconut – a little over my head although Jamie enjoyed it, but I couldn’t taste much.
  3. Fig, halloumi, basil, mustard seed – spot on – the salty cheese with the squidgy sweet fig was lovely, with the mustard seed adding a nice twist.
  4. Salt cod croquettes – did exactly what was said on the tin – super crispy and crunchy outside without being either too oily or too dry with a delicious moist filling.
  5. Radicchio and orange salad, pomegranate, orange blossom – I was a little indifferent, I found it a bit floral, but again Jamie thought it was great.
  6. Slow cooked ox cheek, egg, Sriracha (a Thai chilli sauce) – my very favourite dish – melt in the mouth doesn’t even cover it.  The ox cheeks were so tender and sweet and the egg was perfectly yolky and gooey.
The Refuge 3
Black daal
The Refuge 4
Wild bass ceviche, perfumed fruit, coconut
The Refuge 5
Fig, halloumi, basil, mustard seed
The Refuge 6
Salt cod croquettes, parsley aioli
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Radicchio and orange salad, pomegranate, orange blossom
Slow cooked ox cheek, egg, Sriracha
Slow cooked ox cheek, egg, Sriracha

Despite the fact that we felt pretty full after our sharing plates, we couldn’t leave without having a pudding.  Jamie was eyeing up the cheeseboard, but I was done with savoury. So he agreed to share the pear tarte tatin and hazelnut with custard expresso.  I would go back for this pudding alone.  Pear, hazelnut and expresso unexpectedly is a dynamite combination – it was decadent, caramelly and beautifully chewy.

Jamie and I both agreed we’d like to be regular visitors at the Refuge – whether that’s the restaurant or the bar – it’s a place you feel welcomed, spoiled, elevated and inspired.

Pear tarte tatin and hazelnut, custard expresson
Pear tarte tatin and hazelnut, custard expresson

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