Gimme Shelter – Refuge set to be the jewel in the Palace hotel’s revamp

Emma Chadwick | 9th September 2016

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Refuge is the new restaurant from the Volta boys, aka the Unabombers’ boys aka Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford – but whatever the tags you put on them, they’re bloody good at food.

We went to a preview of what will be on offer to the public from September 14 when the dustcloths come off Refuge and it opens fully.

It’s part of a multi-million pound refurb of the Palace Hotel which used to be the Refuge Insurance building, hence the eatery’s name.

The setting is stunning in that old Manc majesty we do so well, with impossibly high ceilings, enough dado rails, vaulted ceilings and general ornateness to make Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen wet his pants.

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It’s sort of echoey in the big bar area next to the restaurant which backs on to a fabulous atrium, all glass and art deco, afternoon tea perfect.

We tasted a range of the new dishes, some familiar to Volta fans from the Didsbury restaurant and some newbies only available at Refuge.

The idea is to share and tear into the food and the small plates are loosely based on Med cuisine.

This was just my cup of tea and each dish oozed quality and care, with more than a dash of know-how from the kitchen run by head chef Alex Worrall.

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Stand-out offerings for me were a beetroot dip that has a husky, smoky flavour which was just delicious, produced by the smoked feta in it. A sea bass ceviche was fresh and light with an unusual coconut counterpoint that brought out all the gorgeous flavours.

In fact there wasn’t a bum note in any of these small plates – salt cod croquettes tantalised the tongue, tuna tartare dance across it and lamb shawarma was like a lingering Frenchie, not to mention the countless other dishes.

Then it was onto mains and after this belly-busting starter even though shared with a plethora of other media types, this felt like it was going to be hard work, literally just to swallow.

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But no, we ploughed through. There were three fantastic, fanfare, trumpet blowing sharing dishes which were superlative. A lamb that had been cooking slowly and tenderly for hours to give us a melt-in-the-mouth sensation and stuffed stone bass that was juicy, full-throttle flashily-fishy.

The shared chicken look a bit commonplace until you stuck a fork in it and had a bird to remember, with its simple lemon and garlic marinade.

The side dishes were also what Mr Winner used to call ‘historic’ and I couldn’t stop eating a fabulous black daal which was probably my dish of the night.

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There was actual dessert as well, even after this huge feast with a massive chocolate fondue with fantastic honeycombs, mini-eclairs and marshmallows to dip into its gooeyness.

Refuge opens to everyone next week and I would recommend you rush and get yourself a table for a fantastic meal in a great, history seeped setting.

Viva verdict: Book!