Restaurant Review: Refuel
I’ve often heard people citing Refuel, the bar and restaurant at the Soho Hotel, as a must for a first-date destination. In terms of my experience of first dates, it’s often been a case of turning up and stumbling upon a pub which neither party is particularly excited about and politely spending the first two hours or so there until one of us is polite enough to suggest moving on to another location. It was to my great delight that I received an invite to Refuel to try out the destination on a first date after so many recommendations. I’ve always been fairly wary of dedicating a Friday evening to a first date – see Sliding Doors, 1998 – but I nonetheless found myself walking through Soho as the school’s-out-o’clock crowds filled the streets.
Set back off Wardour Street is the Soho Hotel. Upon entry into the main lobby we were directed towards Refuel. We were shown to our table, walking past neighbouring tables that hosted couple after couple. Sure, there was an after-work sort of vibe, with the occasional un-knotted tie and rolled-up shirt sleeve, but this place is clearly very popular with those out on a date.
Refuel centres itself around a Mad Men-style bar accessorised with show-stopping artwork – think pop art meets Picasso, cool yet not overstated. We settled down amongst the crowd and were presented with a curated list of cocktails, not knowing where to begin. Our attentive waiter selected a Passion Bellini and a house special of the sister Haymarket Hotel, the raspberry and Lychee Bellini. We worked our way through the menu, purposefully not counting the number of cocktails we consumed, from the Gin Higgins and the Watermelon Martini through to the Twisted Mojito and the Crystal Sparkle, to name some of the most memorable. My date and I undertook the task of tackling the menu as a team, sampling each other’s cocktails and covering as much of the menu as we could between us – a mission that’s sure to unite any couple.
Refuel does provide a full à la carte menu, but with this being a first date, we stuck to bar snacks. As far as snacks go, the offering here is well above average: seared salmon tataki, crispy broccoli fritters and spicy tuna sushi rolls, wasabi and pickled ginger were some of the highlights.
I could see why Refuel has built up a reputation as an ideal first-date venue. It offers everything you could desire: it’s lively yet intimate, impressive yet not pretentious, cool yet classic. Never again will I be the victim of an undecided location for a date! Refuel ticks all of the boxes for a first-date venue – in fact, if all goes well I’d be happy to visit on a second, third or twenty-fourth date.