Agent J: Coupon Crazy! will be a new series following our mission to save a few dollars using coupons (Groupons, Living Social, TastyGo..you name it).
Agent B: When you’re still in university you can’t really afford to spend $100 on a meal for two. Which is what this meal at The Refinery would have cost if we paid full price apparently.
The coupon from LivingSocial was for 2 appies (small tapas), 2 entrees (large tapas) 2 drinks and 2 desserts for $44 (regular $88).
J: When I first looked up The Refinery before we ate there, the food appeared good and they had award-winning cocktails, which made our coupon deal seem very worth it. We realized they changed the menu recently and so we were on our own to figure out what was best. The Refinery is upstairs from Granville Street, quite hidden, and seems to be a relatively small-scale social dining spot with a large bar.
J: We ordered our cocktails first, and I was quite interested to try them since The Refinery has won awards for cocktail-making (and normally $10+ per drink). I had the Lavare, which included vodka, lavender syrup, grapefruit, and sparkling wine. I could definitely taste the vodka (which is a good thing), but it was quite the girly drink (pink and flowery), and the taste of lavender overpowered everything else.
B: It’s true, girly drinks don’t match her very well. I got the Impromptu Punch and I spent the entire night trying to figure out what flavour it was (I asked the bartender to surprise me) and I forgot to ask at the end what it was. Pretty sure some grapefruit was involved. I usually stick with my beers and highballs so I can’t comment much on the drink, but it was different.
J: I enjoyed Agent B’s drink more than mine, the flavours were quite strong.
B: Not like you knew what flavours they were =P
B: Our first dish were the Halibut Cakes which was by far the best dish that day. The cake was almost all chopped halibut and was cooked perfectly. The best part was the tarragon-caper aioli which added the perfect kick to the dish and we found ourselves looking for something to dip into the excess after we were done the cakes.
J: I agree that the aioli sauce was very tasty, and matched the halibut cakes well. This is a great dish overall, and a safe choice if you do go to The Refinery.
B: I should also mention that the server that brought us the dish was exceptional, taking the time to explain the dish and telling us it was her favourite. I do appreciate servers taking the time to explain dishes. I wish I hadn’t ordered the other things already or I would have listened to more of her recommendations.
J: Our second ‘small tapa’ was the Roasted Duck Breast, which came with honey dijon dressing and roasted figs. I had to order the duck when I saw it on the menu, because I’ve only had duck cooked the Asian-style BBQ way. Although the duck in this dish was not overcooked, it fell short of my expectations. I would have expected duck to be softer and juicier, yet this one was somewhat dry and it lacked the flavourful duck skin. The honey dijon sauce was a good complement, but the figs were hard.
B: I was okay with the duck breast. It wasn’t the oily, fatty duck you get at Asian places so if that’s what you want, this isn’t for you. It’s true some pieces were a bit dry, but the juicier ones had that duck goodness and it went well with the honey dijon (much more honey than dijon).
J: From the “Bigger Tapas”, I picked the Spanish Beef Ribs with a balsamic glaze served on a ‘salsa verde’, which was a tangy green sauce. I was disappointed with this dish because the ribs were dry and unseasoned, and the tangy green sauce did not match…at all. Perhaps it was meant to be a creative twist, but overall it was like dry meat with pickle sauce.
B: Yeah, the beef ribs were a big disappointment. The ribs were not marinated at all and maybe Spanish style is supposed to be like this, but the balsamic glaze and salsa did not go well with the ribs. I’ll stick with my Korean beef ribs from now on.
B: The Roasted Pork Tenderloin was average. There wasn’t really anything amazing about it, just a piece of pork tenderloin. I found it funny J’s first comment was “it tastes like soap” which I couldn’t taste at all. Might have been the onion jam? Otherwise there was nothing special about this dish.
J: I agree with it being average, but I won’t comment much since I’m generally not a fan of pork (especially dry pork). The dish also looked kind of messy and the meat just thrown on without any other garnishes.
B: So by this point J and I have been largely dissatisfied with the food and wanted to go back 2 hours in time and re-order everything with the halibut cake server’s recommendations. So without much enthusiasm we picked our desserts and I got the Chocolate Terrine. The terrine was probably the second highlight of the night as it was definitely one of the better desserts I’ve had considering this place wasn’t necessarily known for desserts. There was a good mix of dark and milk chocolate, and the almonds went very well with it. The menu said there were supposed to be some pineapple chunks in it for me as well but I didn’t see any of it.
J: I really enjoyed this chocolate terrine over the one at Provence, because this wasn’t too sweet and there was a lot more going on. There were whole almonds and crushed almonds, and the tangy raspberry coulis complemented the chocolate well.
J: For dessert, I had their house-made Brownie Dough Cheesecake served on caramel sauce. It tasted mostly like cheesecake (hard to detect any brownie flavours), but tasted good with the caramel sauce.
FINAL AGENT REPORT
Atmosphere: “Social scene”
B: 3. Difficult to find the rating for food for The Refinery when I had a 50% discount. The foods were mostly misses with a couple hits in the halibut cake and the chocolate terrine and if I was rating this based on paying full price it’d probably be a 2 or 2.5. I’d consider changing these ratings if I go again and try some other dishes as I think there is some promise here.
J: 2. Most of the dishes were a hit and miss, and nothing really stood out for me, although I would have the Chocolate Terrine and Halibut Cakes again. The regular prices of the tapas are way too high for the amount you get. I saw a little creative spark, but it wasn’t working quality-wise.
B: 4. The service here was attentive and mostly spot on in terms of speed and friendliness. I could tell the employees enjoyed working here, or at least didn’t hate it. One server was exceptional in that she explained each dish in detail, which I enjoyed while the other was more standard. Overall a good experience and I’d come back if I had another coupon.
J: 3.5. Service was average, our waitress came by often to ask us how we were enjoying our food, but didn’t go beyond regular service and explain any food items. However, I can see that everyone is enthusiastic, and some servers might be more eager to help than others.
Overall Rating (/5): 3