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The Refuge, Oxford St in Manchester

Restaurant Review: The Refuge, Oxford St in Manchester

By Megan Lawton on 7th June 2017

The Refuge on Manchester’s Oxford Street was originally home to an insurance company but, for many years, the stunning baroque-style building was passed between several owners. Fortunately, as of late 2016, this iconic, red brick building now has an interior to match the outside, courtesy of two DJ’s turned restauranteurs.

Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, previously known as the dance DJ’s ‘Unabombers’ have taken over this Manchester establishment and made it their own. Taking inspiration from their world travels, the business partners have created a menu that features dishes from around the globe, all using the North West’s best ingredients.

The Winter Garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail
The Winter Garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail

What sets this restaurant apart is the incredible venue. The open space is divided into a dining area, public bar and winter garden. The interior design is modern but in keeping with the historic building. In the centre of the establishment sits the winter garden, a stunning greenhouse-style room with printed tiles, lounging chairs and trees. It’s simply beautiful and the ideal setting to sit back and enjoy a delightful cocktail.

The main dining space is more informal with a mixture of booths and individual tables, and, on a Tuesday night, I visited this eatery with my friend, Jodie; it had a lively atmosphere.

The main dining space with inviting booths
The main dining space with inviting booths

Sharing is central to the ethos of The Refuge and the majority of the food menu is made up of ‘Voltinis’ – small plates designed to be split between friends. Like a traditional tapas restaurant, courses are brought to the table when they are ready, which adds to The Refuge’s informal nature.

As recommended, Jodie and I ordered three dishes each: tuna tartare, volcanic tomatoes with goats cheese, hake with black dhal, grilled tiger prawns, broccolini and a seared tuna steak. As you can tell from the list, the dishes aren’t typical sharing plates, however the small portions lent themselves to the concept.

The delicious tuna tartare with avocado mousse
The delicious tuna tartare with avocado mousse

We polished off every morsel as the dishes were simply delicious! Our personal favourites included the tuna tartare served with a light avocado mousse, the hake, which was pan-fried to perfection and served on a flavoursome dhal, and the gorgeous fillet of chilli-marinated tuna.

Because of the light nature of the plates, we found room for pudding! In keeping with the rest of the meal we opted for the chocolate sharing fondue. If you can’t decide what you fancy, this is the dessert for you. The plate is a playground of sweet treats which include meringue, fruit jelly, fresh berries, macaroons and churros, all served with a puddle of thick, milk chocolate – heavenly!

The delicious chocolate sharing fondue
The delicious chocolate sharing fondue

The Refuge’s drinks menu is also exciting and features a handful of unique gin, rum and vodka-based cocktails. I opted for a Scarlet Fever, which is an amazing combination of gin with lemon, basil, strawberry and prosecco – it was simply gorgeous!

In a nutshell, if you’re seeking informal, but delicious, dining in simply stunning settings, The Refuge is the establishment for you.

Address: Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA
Phone: 0161 233 5151