“ Address: 110 Southwark Street / London / SE1 0TF / Tel: 0845 468 0186 „
The Refinery is a bar/restaurant/nightclub based in the Blue Fin building in Southwark, City of London. I went along to Soul Saturday at The Refinery for the first time for a friend's birthday in January 2011 and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I'm writing specifically about Soul Saturdays event as I have no experience of the restaurant aspect of The Refinery but also discussing the venue overall. From what I understand this event has been successfully running on Saturdays since early 2004.
The Refinery is located in Southwark Street in the City and as such isn't smack bang in the middle of other bars, clubs and restaurants like most nightspots in the West End. This area seems to be mainly office blocks and I imagine The Refiner is quite busy during the day for City diners and those executive business lunches on expenses.
The venue was chosen by the birthday girl and as I'd never been to there before, let alone heard of it, I didn't really know what to expect, except that the birthday girl has similar tastes in music to me, so I knew I'd at least enjoy the music.
On arrival we provided the birthday girl's name as we had pre-booked and were on a guest list. We were escorted inside by a very pleasant "bouncer" who showed us to our reserved table and pointed out where the bar and toilets were, which was a nice touch. The birthday girl had provided a £50 deposit to secure a reserved area for us to sit at (which was refunded on the night) and a complimentary bottle of bubbly was provided. The entrance price for us was £5 each as we arrived before 11pm and were on the guest list, otherwise it would have been £10 before 11pm. Being on the guest list you would pay £10 after 11pm or £15 if not on the guest list. The music played all evening was a mixture of commercial dance music with more recent dance music interspersed throughout the evening, I especially enjoyed the 90s Soul and RnB played during the evening. As far as I'm aware the DJs that were playing that Saturday play at other venues around London details of which can be found at www.londongroove.co.uk . From the website: 'think Alicia Keys, Timbaland and Black Eyed Peas to Bob Marley, Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson all in one night..'
Everyone seemed to be bopping along to some of their favourite tunes and it was nice to see a good mixture of age groups but especially satisfying was the fact that there didn't seem to be any underage customers in there and hence there was no attitude at all. Some people did get rather tipsy but there was no trouble as often happens when there are underage drinkers in a venue that can't handle their drink! As far as I'm aware the minimum age for entry is 23 and if you look younger than that you'll be asked for photo ID before gaining entrance. I was stunned at the smokers' area - as it was late January it was quite cold outside and as you know, due to the smoking ban introduced a few years ago, us smokers have to go outside to indulge in our filthy habit! At The Refinery, there were a few sofas outside and a few high tables with stools and on each stool was a pashmina or shawl for customers to wrap around themselves whilst having a smoke as well as some scattered over the sofas. I don't know if this is common in other nightclubs but it was the first time I'd seen this and I must have irritated the hell out of my friends by going on about it all evening saying what a polite nightclub it was to provide these warm wraps for customers who were having a smoke!
Drinks are not cheap, but you can't really expect anything less in a London venue, a single vodka (they seem to automatically give you Smirnoff Black if you ask for vodka) costs around £4 with an extra £1 or so for the mixer, e.g soda was £0.90 and Coke was £1.10 (which would have made sense to actually buy a glass of Coke and used it for a couple of drinks at that price). Bottles of beer, such as Peroni, were around £4.50. There were a selection of cocktails available priced from around £7 upwards, including the interestingly named skinny watermelon & pink peppercorn martini, pineapple & cardamom daiquiri, skinny fluzie, nyc hemingway daiquiri #1 and skinny apple & honey margarita!
I thought the ladies toilets (which were up on the first floor which only seemed accessible via stairs) were quite "cool" too with well lit dressing areas for those who needed to touch up their makeup with comfortable seating available too. The toilets were well stocked and seemed well maintained throughout the evening which is refreshing considering most clubs seem to run out of toilet roll partway through the evening and it's a nightmare trying to get the staff to restock!
During the evening, we found all of the bar staff to be very polite and friendly as well as the numerous door staff who seemed to take turns to man the smoking area to ensure people weren't taking drinks outside.
Even though the website says the dress code is smart, casual or comfortable and that smart trainers are allowed, I don't recall seeing anyone in trainers. It seems to be the sort of place that people make an effort to dress up to go to.
I'd definitely go to Soul Saturdays at The Refinery again as I enjoyed the music, the atmosphere and the good attitude from the staff was a big bonus too (it also helped that the group I was in consisted of about 40 people). Personally I tend not to revisit places where I feel the staff do not value their customers, this definitely is not the case at The Refinery. A strong 4 out of 5 for me.
110 Southwark Street
Tel: 0845 468 0186
Url: http://www.therefinerybar.co.uk or http://www.londongroove.co.uk/the_refinery_club.html
Opening times: 9pm-3am
Nearest tube station London Bridge on Northern and Jubilee Line.