The cocktails are nice but the food at The Refinery needs refining, says Gaby Soutar

Although I was almost inspired to take up ice-skating after watching Chazz and Jimmy in Blades of Glory, especially in the escalator chase scene, it’ll never be my sport of choice.

The primary school chat, circa 1982, about someone’s fingers being sliced off by a skate at Murrayfield Ice Rink probably didn’t stoke my enthusiasm, even if the rumours did turn out to be untrue.

Then there’s my cryophobia, combined with a fear of shattering my coccyx into dust, all of which contributed to the fact that, the only time I ever skated, I felt the need to hunch and bend my knees. Think sloth, fleeing from the jungle.

If the gliding and bobble-hatted figures circuiting St Andrew Square festive rink are anything to go by, most people are braver than me (or more springily-boned).

The upper floor of this new bar and restaurant, with its floor to ceiling windows, and chairs draped with blankets, provides the perfect vantage point to live vicariously and watch them, as well as the shoppers.

For a view unhindered by glass, you could even sit in their alfresco area and use one of the provided hot water bottles.
I was sent a CGI drawing of the interior a few months ago. It was a bit Scottish-by-numbers (Highland coo picture, tartan-tastic) and I’m glad they’ve gone for something a bit less obvious for this chain’s first branch in Scotland.

Still, the menu is pretty unexciting. There are obvious bits plucked from global cuisine, with Thai chicken curry sandwiched between comfort food classics like bangers ‘n’ mash and fish pie.

For want of anything more exciting, we went for chicken satay (£6.25) and chorizo Scotch egg (£5.95). Our poultry option was OK.

There were four skewers of slippery thigh meat, all slopped with a peanut sauce that was watery, very sweet and coconut milky, but lacking oomph, like an unchallenging version you’d prepare for a kids’ party, so that none of the tinkers would start crying and saying their mouth was burny.

The egg option was nice and oozy inside, with a soft and fleshy pink porky cladding (if the menu hadn’t said chorizo, I wouldn’t have thought there was any in there), and a solid crisp Ferrero Rocher-esque case, with a large dollop of smoked paprika mayonnaise on the side. No bad.

For mains we chose something from the D&M Favourites (Drake and Morgan is the name of the bar group).

My lemon chicken (£12.95) was an oddity, since there was no lemon on it. The breast of slightly dry chook was topped with salty brown gravy, à la roast dinner. Weird. It came with a stick of soft roast sweet potato, steamed spinach, and a transparent roasted onion. OK, but unexpected.

The braised beef shin (£12.95) featured slices of meat that were salty, pretty tired looking and grey. However, protein aside, the pale bank of fluffy and Parmesan-injected polenta pulp was fine, as was the bone marrow stuffed with sautéed onions.

We were drawn to the chocolate orange jaffa cake (£5.95) pudding, because who can resist the lure of having an argument over whether the McVitie’s version is a biscuit or a cake. Anyway, it was disappointing, since the ratio of dry sponge to orange jelly bit and chocolate was probably 25:1.

The pecan pie (£5.95) was better, or it would’ve been if it hadn’t been slightly burnt. At least we could taste the ghost of its pre-oven potential.

So, the best thing I had all visit was my cocktail, the Candy Shop Sour (Sipsmith gin, rhubarb and custard liqueur and lemon, £8.95), which was a sweet and bitter delight, with a skewered marshmallow and a pansy flower on top. Perhaps the clever mixologist had used the last lemon, and that’s why there was none in my chicken main. If so, I’m OK with that, it was worth it.

Still, when it comes to food, it’s pretty clunky in here. As they say in Cockney rhyming slang, I’m just not that Torvill and Dean. n

The Refinery

5 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
(0333 210 0017, www.drakeandmorgan.co.uk)

How much?

Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £50

The Refinery, Edinburgh, Restaurant Review
Food60%
Ambience80%
70%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (13 Votes)
27%

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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