An invitation to sample the bloody mary menu at one of the Drake and Morgan’s restaurants had me highly curious, I mean a WHOLE bloody mary menu?! I picked The Refinery as it’s the closest location to me, it also happens to be the first in the chain to open, in 2008. It’s in that slightly odd area just South of the Southbank behind the Tate Modern, that always seems somehow lacking and unloved. I’m reassured though by the immediately bustling and energetic feel on entering, despite similarly soulless floor to ceiling glass walls to that equally shell like St Giles complex.
The room is sprawling, with a high sweeping ceiling, and on this Sunday where pretty much everything in the area is closed, it’s heaving; the atmosphere buzzing. The theme seems to be a fairly generic rustic one, based possibly around an allotment concept; there are plant pots in abundence, flourishing herbs on tables, many wooden boards and obligitory jam jars as glasses. It all feels a bit contrived, a corporate roll out that’s ticking trend boxes trying to replicate those cooler independants. The mix of customers seems faily evenly split between those taking a leisurely brunch and those tucking into a hearty roast lunch. We’re here for the former along with that brunch staple; bloody marys. I should probably start by stating that I’m not a massive fan of the drink, I can certainly appreciate a good one but it would never be my first choice; I’m not sure the savouriness is really for me, although having said that, one of my favourites was a deeply savoury number made with beef boullion at Byron. The draw was the intriguing sounding six variations on the classic, and my ever prevalent curiosity.
We sit down with grumbling bellies expecting a grand feast, the menu certainly describes some pleasingly hearty plates. I do love a sarnie, so can’t resist the Breakfast Club Sandwich, the boy orders the Californian Kick Start, and we order our first round of bloody marys. I can’t resist trying the Crystal Mary Martini, mainly because I’m curious to see how one of my favourite gins, Millers, will work in the mix, the boy goes for a Bloody Caesar, I’m fairly sure because he wants the king prawn garnish that is advertised. There is immediate dissapointment therefore when our drinks turn up and his garnish is missing, he claims the drink is good though, tasting quite simply and mainly of tomato juice. Mine I find a bit more of a challenge. The gin just doesn’t, I find, sit easily with the tomato juice and I find it a bit of a struggle initially to get down, it is intriguing though and I find it easier to digest when my food arrives.
My epic sounding sandwich would have been more so if the slices of toasted sourdough were not wafer thin and quite so full of holes, as it is I pull the layered ingredients apart before they tumble, or the bread shatters. Once reapproached I’m better equiped to get at the great fillings; sweet cured bacon, London sausage, fried egg, roast tomatoes, field mushroom, and I add black pudding. And broken down it’s good, but rather more refined than the gutbuster I had imagined (this is no bad thing, I actually leave feeling pleasantly full rather than heavy and bloated). The boy’s plate arrives looking pretty fine; perfectly poached eggs sit atop english muffins, but rather than guacamole as listed there is diced avocado and distressingly no sign of the hummous that, knowing him, is primarily why he ordered the dish. Our second round of bloody marys are more experimental and not so successful as the first. His sake and kimchi is literally like drinking a jam jar of pickle juice (a ‘pickle’ without the fun of the ‘back’). My Caprese Mary sounds interesting but in reality the large glass is so full bits of salad and garnish I struggle to get at the drink and eventually give up. In retrospect we perhaps should have tried the classic version really, but the lure of the quirky will often be too much for me.
Glancing at the rest of the cocktail menu reveals an extensive if exhaustive list with plenty that sound appealing, the calorie count next to each I find a touch galling though there is none next to the bloody marys….health food perhaps?!
I visited earlier this year and it’s taken me this long to write it up due to a certain sense of ambivilence. Our visit wasn’t without it’s mistakes but we still enjoyed our brunch. I don’t think I’d travel out of my way to visit, but it’s not a bad spot for a quick snack and a cocktail if you’re in the area, even better if your stuck South of the river on a Sunday.