I’ll be honest, The Refuge has been a secret pleasure of mine since it opened last September. Its appearance on Oxford Street is another big leap forward for an area undergoing a serious post-BBC resurgence right now. Plus it’s near my office, making it dangerously convenient for a few rounds of after-work table football, or for sneaking out to grab a quick people’s lunch menu with some old pals.
The interior of The Refuge, in case you haven’t heard, is … well … breathtaking. Big, bold, bright, but ever so refined, you feel a million miles away from the bustle of Europe’s busiest roadworks corridor, flung back through time into a high-class, dreamy, bygone era that probably only ever existed in classic film sets.
We’d been invited to try the new Sunday roast. After a lively Saturday the previous night, we ordered a couple of Bloody Marys and then inspected the menu. The choice was simple enough; beef, suckling pig, chicken, vegetarian roast. Or even better, combine them all onto a sharing platter, so you don’t feel like you’ve missed out on anything. Easy.
But before I dive into the roast, let’s have a quick word about those Bloody Marys. This fiery, peppery, vodka-fuelled face slap was a masterful (and well presented) rendition of the classic morning-after drink, and a reminder of The Refuge’s mastery of the cocktail art form.
The sharing platter arrived soon after, a deck of roasted goodies resting invitingly on a bed of green vegetables, and with two generously sized Yorkshires proudly perching on top. A bonus dish of cauliflower cheese, and the all-important boat of gravy completed the scene.
Equipped with two plates, we dug in, exposing delicately spiced braised red cabbage, and golden velvet style potatoes, along with their root vegetable bedfellows of carrot and swede.
Of the three meats it was hard to pick a winner. I’d say I enjoyed the beef the most, those beautiful rare slices really are as tender as you imagine. But really each was fantastic, the garlic and herb chicken and the suckling pig provided some stiff competition. Also — three meats in a roast! Even my mother doesn’t do that.
A couple of desserts rounded off the meal. I couldn’t resist picking the crème brûlée, this was served in a nice wide dish, giving the maximum amount of that crunchy caramel topping to crack my spoon into. My dining partner opted for the apple crumble with custard, flavoured with a homely note of cinnamon giving it an almost festive warmth.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a glorious thing a Sunday roast can be, and the new roast menu at The Refuge was a welcome reminder of how to do classic food and do it well. Succulent, unashamedly traditional and cooked with great precision, I think this new contender should force a few Manchester top five lists to be rewritten.
So in summary, you should go to The Refuge for the roast. It’s great. But also, if you haven’t been there at all, then just find any excuse at all to go, sip on a cocktail in the winter garden, while away an afternoon picking at the small plates menu, or simply just gawp at the place.
The Refuge by Volta
Oxford Street, Manchester, M60 7HA
0161 233 5151