Restaurant Review – The Refinery – Vancouver, BC

I try and do this as often as possible, but unfortunately with the summer coming up (meaning vacation time) I have been unable to participate in this as much as I’d like.  My sister and I have what we have coined as “Sister Dinners” – imaginative, I know.  It started when we weren’t living together, and pretty much was just a way to ensure we saw each other AT LEAST once a month, but now that we live together it’s mostly just an excuse to go out and eat at a restaurant (meaning eat pounds of butter), and drink highly over-priced cocktails that you wouldn’t normally make at home – but man, are they good.

A specification of these dinners is that we have to try somewhere new – that might only be one-sided though – like that might be MY specification, as I’m pretty sure Linds had been to the Refinery a couple times.  She is a good sport though, and goes along with it.  What we normally do though – and I find this helps in trying all of what a restaurant has to offer – is we start with a mixed cocktail of some sort, then move to wine.  I’d like to say it’s only one bottle, but who am I kidding, more often than not, it turns into 2 (….maybe even 3 – don’t tell Mom and Dad….).  The food, we never choose on our own, we ALWAYS ask our server to select; based on what’s good/their signature dish/what’s fresh/in season, etc.  I find that’s a sure fire way you’re going to get something that’s worth writing about. And our last specification is that we sit at the bar.  We figure it’s a good way to get to know the people…. you know pretty much keep ourselves entertained once we are blinded by our wine-induced drunkenness.

Anyways…. at the suggestion of our mixologist/server, we opted to stick with cocktails for the night (this may have increased the bill amount, but apparently it’s better for eliminating the inevitable hangover – not sure if it entirely worked though….).  He claimed that the mixing of alcohols is the killer for hangover – which I mean makes sense, we’ve all heard the life slogan “beer before liquor, you’ll never be sicker, liquor before beer, you’re in the clear”, right? Unfortunately though, there should be something else added to the slogan stating something about champagne cocktail before perfect gin martini want to shoot yourself in the brain – or something like that…. but we tried it – sticking to cocktails – and it was good for variety, I’ll say that – and also a GREAT way for our fabulous mixologist to show off his skills – I mean I don’t think I have had a better cocktail than the 6 or so I had that night. (That may be a bit of an exaggeration, I mean I wasn’t whipping my shirt off, dancing on the bar, and/or drunk dialing perfect strangers – it was probably more like 3 or 4…..) I had wanted to take photos of the food, but unfortunately completely forgot, and by the end of the meal finally clued into the fact that we didn’t take any at all…. oops! Hopefully my descriptions will suffice this time round.

Before I get into the food talk, I will say that the ambiance was absolutely great.  I would have to say the place is a fabulous late night find.  Friday and Saturday nights a DJ goes on and it turns into more of a “loungey” type of atmosphere.  I was a little nervous when around 9pm or so a stagette party walked in with extremely annoying girls (fair enough, it was a stagette, I really shouldn’t judge as I have a couple coming up this year, and imagine we will be exactly the same way).  I was sure they would ruin the evening, however, about 10 minutes later a parade of very attractive gentlemen walked in the door for a stag.  I had no problem whatsoever, the eye candy went perfectly with my dessert.

Speaking of dessert, let’s get your mouths watering.  So, as mentioned before, we never order ourselves – we always have our servers order for us.  I would suggest doing this, as long as you really don’t have issues with food.  My sister and I can’t have pineapple (I know, very sad…. I don’t want to talk about it) but that’s our only dietary restriction – and the more of everything else, the better.  Anyways, the premise of this restaurant is the their tapas selection.  We were offered five (5) different dishes.  Which really turned out to be the perfect amount.  They brought us dessert as well (6th dish), but waited a good while so we were able to properly digest the other food (with another cocktail….smart thinking :-)).

We started with the Roasted Duck Breast, and I mean really…you might be asking, “what happens if you don’t like duck??”, and I’m going to say, “If you don’t like duck, you’re rather stuck”….lol (Fawlty Towers quote – but I will truly say, if you didn’t know that – get your a** to a TV and watch Fawlty Towers, absolutely hilaaaaaarious).  Anyways, it was typical Lac Brome (QC) duck, plump and juicy, and was served with a honey Dijon dressing and roasted figs.  The honey Dijon was a lovely touch and one that is very welcome when most places have some sort of fruit sauce with their duck.  To be honest not my favourite at all.  I much preferred this dressing.  The fruit addition was beautifully taken by the roasted figs.  These were the Mission figs – not the overly large fresh ones.  They were crispy and added the perfect amount of sweetness.  I must say that the duck was slightly over-done for my palette, not sure how my sister felt about it – I mean I really enjoyed, but if I were to be nit-picky, that would be my only negative for the dish.

Next we were served the Poached Pear & Goat Cheese Salad.  Truthfully quite an over done dish.  I mean I made it for a NYE dinner party 3 years ago.  Sure it’s good, but is it great, no, not really.  It was arugula, goat cheese, walnuts, golden beets, and white wine poached pears in a honey dijon vinaigrette.  The beets were a lovely touch – I am a beet freak though.  It would have been nice if the walnuts were candied or there was an herb of some sort throw in with the roquette.  It just didn’t WOW me. And in all honesty, I think an innovative “green” salad is the mark of a good restaurant.  Anybody can throw lettuce on a plate, toss a dressing on it and call it a salad – but show me something not everyone can do – that’s why restaurants are there in the first place, no??

The Crab Salad, however, was…… great! It was (of course) West Coast crab, I’m going to assume Dungeness, fingerling potatoes, preserved lemons, scallion, lemon aoili and a chili oil.  The chili oil is what did it for me in this dish.  It was a very refreshing salad, and then this pop of chili oil just woke my tastebuds up and made them dance around in my mouth.  Beautiful, glorious, and well completely welcome, in my books. This was definitely at the top for the evening.

Now, in my belief the BEST of the evening was their Gnocchi.  Holy jeez, I’m usually pretty picky about my gnocchi – I believe I make some of the best there is out there, so I’m always looking for the melt in your mouth, soft, pillowy goodness that they should be.  There is nothing worse than to order them off the menu only to find tough, chewy, hockey pucks… it literally will bring me to tears.  Anyways, at the Refinery they were beautiful! Tossed in a beurre noisette (brown butter), with sage, pancetta, and preserved lemon.  Really simple, but ever so tasty.  The preserved lemon cut through the rich butter perfectly – almost enough to warrant eating it all to myself.  I do believe at one point my sister did pry the dish out of my hands – and alternatively I to her.

We decided, after eating all this food, that we weren’t finished.  I have a little love affair with pork belly, especially when it is listed as “crispy” pork belly.  Having said that, we had to order it.  Unfortunately – it wasn’t crisp. They claimed it was braised (good) and pan-fried (I don’t believe it).  Perhaps the oil wasn’t hot enough, or I don’t know.  All I can say is it wasn’t crisp.  Now, it is pork belly so was it delicious? OF COURSE, it just would’ve been even better had it actually been crispy.  The apple puree that accompanied it was delicious, and the summer slaw was perfectly acidic to cut the richness of the belly.  I’m going to say it again…. I just wished it was crisp.

Finally, we rounded out the night with their chocolate terrine.  Talk about your decadent thick richness of chocolatey goodness.  This was a mixture of dark and milk chocolates encrusted in ground almonds.  It was sitting delectably on a puddle of raspberry coulis, and was topped with a drizzle of a sweet balsamic reduction.  I’ll just say…. if you don’t like chocolate, don’t order this dessert.

All-in-all I had a great time.  I would 100% recommend The Refinery to people in the 20 – 45 years of age range.  Being on the Granville strip, you’d have to stay in that age group as most of the people around you are going to Joesph Richard, or one of those stupid boutique/trashy nightclubs after (ugh!).  It wasn’t extremely outrageous in price.  If we had stuck with only one cocktail and then wine, it would have been significantly cheaper.  The fact that there were 18 – 20 pieces of eye candy for me to watch may have increased my ranking of this restaurant, but really it was a great experience.  I will go again. Bring some girlfriends and flirt with the bartenders.  It’ll make for another good Friday night!

Happy Eating, Friends!


*This experience was completely paid for out of my own pocket.  The Refinery did not ask me to write this post/nor did they pay for any of my meal.  

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One thought on “Restaurant Review – The Refinery – Vancouver, BC

  1. Astrid

    So your father and I went to the Refinery on Friday night but our reservations were earlier so we didn’t feel out of place at all. We did have the Duck Breast and that was probably my favourite dish as well as the Gnocchi which your father chose and he was in heaven with that one. Absolutely excellent! Another starter was the Halibut Cevice – lovely but not as lovely as what we had in Ecuador. We tried the pork belly and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Dessert was the chocolate terrine and the homemade ice cream which reminded your father of Christmas with the cinnamon flavour.
    The thing that most impressed us was the service. They were very attentive – now it could have been because we mentioned our daughter having this blog – but somehow I don’t think so. I highly recommend this restaurant -and thanks to you, we had some ideas before we went so that helped.


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