Refuge By Volta, Manchester
REFUGE BY VOLTA: MANCHESTER
... WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT:
- To take in the incredible decor and surroundings including the neon sign and tiled wall sign
- Pretend you're at an outside bar but you're actually in the warmth in the indoor Winter Garden
- Choose one of their unique cocktails to enjoy before dinner
- Dig into the delicious range of sharing dishes with friends
Last month I was very excited to finally be trying Refuge By Volta at the new The Principal hotel, which used to be the Palace Hotel. One of the most happening places to hit Manchester's food and drink scene recently, I'd heard great things and had experienced regular pangs of jealousy after seeing their 'The Glamour Of Manchester' sign all over Instagram and having not witnessed it in the flesh myself.
On a cold January evening my husband Steve and I headed into town, arriving at Refuge By Volta early so we could enjoy a drink in the Winter Garden pre-dinner.
The venue is a gorgeous space and much care and attention has been taken to keep the buildings original features but build new spaces around them, such as the Winter Garden, which is like a conservatory in the middle of the hotel's communal space. I loved the detail, textures, pattern and colours throughout the interior and the mixture of vintage and new furnishings is something that is very up my street.
Seated in vintage peacock chairs around a marble table, I chose a Piña Royale (for those who follow my Interiors Instagram... of course I did, as it had pineapple in it!) and Steve ordered a pint of Brooklyn. The Piña Royale contained Champagne, Pineapple, Coconut Ice and Anise and it was refreshingly delicious. The coconut ice was a clever touch, which I hadn't seen before, and contained a pineapple leaf formed in the ice to use as a drinks stirrer.
After finishing our drinks, we moved into the Dining Room space and excitedly were seated at the far end of the restaurant, underneath 'The Glamour Of Manchester' wall sign (they must have guessed about my love of the sign!).
We were given the menu, which has a mixture of small and large plates that are ideal for sharing at the table and come out as and when they're ready, rather than working on a starter/main concept. The menu has been curated by The Unabombers (Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey) and the concept of the menu, created by head chef Alex Worrall, is inspired by their many global DJ trips.
I liked the relaxed feel of the menu and we decided to order a mixture of Kitchen Counter plates and Voltini. We chose Home-smoked Almonds, Mutabal and Flatbread, Black Daal, Slow-cooked Ox Cheek, egg and Sriracha, Raddicho and Orange Salad with Pomegranate & Orange Blossom, Fries with Rosemary Salt, Broccolini with a Garlic Crumbs, Grilled Tiger Prawns with Chilli & Lime Butter, Roast Sea Bass with Pine Nut, Preserved Lemon and Chilli and Flat Iron Steak with Chimmichurri.
As you can probably work out from the amount we ordered, we were pretty excited by the menu and wanted to try lots of the dishes! We were told they had run out of almonds so the nuts were Cashews and Walnuts instead, which we were fine with. Both had been roasted and the Walnuts had a hint of honey when you bit into them, which gave them a delicious flavour and they were the best walnuts I'd ever eaten. The flatbread arrived warm and we immediately tore chunks off it and dipped it into the smoky and creamy Mutabal (Aubergine dip).
Next up we dug into the ox-cheek, which literally melted in the mouth and was delicious mopped up with runny yolk, herby Chimmichurri and spicy Sriracha sauce. The richness of this dish was balanced by the refreshing radicchio salad, which was one of the tastiest salads we'd ever tried. Simply made with radicchio, pomegranate, orange and the genius ingredient of orange blossom, it was crunchy, fruity and full of flavour and it's a dish we shall definitely now be making at home.
We moved onto the fish dishes next and the prawns were impressibly meaty with the lime only adding to the juiciness of them. The sea bass was perfectly tender and the pine nuts, preserved lemon and chilli complemented the delicacy of the fish. Alongside these dishes, the crunchy and garlicky broccoli and rich, creamy daal were welcome accompaniments.
Lastly we shared the flat-iron steak with chimmichurri and thinly cut fries with rosemary salt, which was a pleasing savoury finale to a very satisfying meal.
Despite being quite full-up, the puddings sounded tempting so we ordered an Orange Blossom and Honey Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Ricotta and an Apple Tart with Madagascan Vanilla Ice Cream. Unfortunately both puddings were quite disappointing and it wasn't the end to the meal we'd been hoping for. The polenta cake, which I'd expected to be really moist, was actually very dry and I left most of it. With the apple tart, we were hoping for a proper traditional pudding but it had a custard topping, which wasn't what we were expecting, and the pastry was also thick and far too hard. The Cappuccino's we ordered with our desserts were however perfectly strong and frothy.
Despite the disappointing puddings, Refuge By Volta is somewhere I would visit again. Not only is the decor a feast for the eyes but the sharing dishes are extremely delicious and the atmosphere is relaxed and it is the ideal place to visit for a night out with friends.
Dotty Dishes was a guest of Refuge By Volta.
Refuge By Volta, Oxford Street, Manchester, M60 7HA.