The Refuge, Oxford Street, Manchester, M60 7HA – Visit Now
Not many venues are as easy on the eye as The Refuge. Inside, you’ll find a maze-like array of spaces and rooms, consisting of bars and dining areas, all serving different purposes and all wonderful. For their newly-launched afternoon tea, we’re in the Winter Garden, easily one of the most grand and instantly relaxing locations this side of a spa day.
A truly memorable, wonderfully laid-back experience
But plan ahead, this afternoon tea menu is available Tuesday to Thursday, from 1pm to 4pm. Is it worth it? Very much so. It’s an elegant take on the classic afternoon delight, starting with savoury snacks, then moving through to some exceptional dessert options. There’s a choice of tea or coffee, with tea from The Brew Tea Company and coffee from Heart & Graft. And if you wish you can opt for decaf or fruit tea, or one of the countless other options.
The most striking thing is the atmosphere. It feels like time has paused, the staff are calm and engaging, and everything about the room is geared around relaxation and catching up over a hot cup of tea – albeit a very stylish one.
The savoury section starts with a thick but fluffy cheddar cheese custard, into which you can dip crisp flatbread, baby carrots and radishes. This cheese custard is gloriously smooth and moreish, but there’s a lot on offer so best not to devour the lot.
Then oak-smoked salmon, beetroot chutney and tangy greek yoghurt on dark, heavily-seeded pumpernickel bread – every element is high-end and impressive. It’s a good deal more impressive than a milky brew down at Big Joe’s Caff.
But the star of the show, and indeed the entire afternoon, has to be the pork and kimchi sausage roll. The meat is outrageously soft and packed with flavour and the flakey, crumbly, buttery pastry is as good as it gets. I’ll be making a return for these alone (and eat both).
The scones are almost as good, made with sour cherries for that special Refuge twist. As for the other sweet treats, there are a lot. My personal favourite is passion fruit and white chocolate opera cake, but the yoghurt, honey and tahini choux bun comes a close second. Then there’s the fig Battenberg, the spiced carrot cake with cardamom and rose petal and not forgetting the Black Forest gateaux – and yes, the ‘bowl’ is edible dark chocolate. At most other establishments, these would be standout options, but here they’re par for the course.
The afternoon tea experience at The Refuge is just that. A truly memorable, wonderfully laid-back experience and whether you love tea and scones, or simply want to catch up with friends or family after this past rollercoaster 18 months, you’ll definitely be wowed.