The Refinery: Lovely coffee, meh on the lunch fare
A key characteristic of most recent café-restaurants seem to be immense inaccessibility. That pretty much too describes The Refinery. Tucked deep in the industrial park along King George's Avenue, nestled among mechanic stores and garrages, one wouldn't take the 15 minute walk from Lavender MRT station unless specifically looking out for it.
Lovely ceilings, but those hooks look really menacing (read: Final Destination-ish)
What makes the trip worth it is the amazing concept behind The Refinery. The brainchild of the folks behind The General Company (makers of artisanal handcrafted products), The Refinery brings together 3 different experiences under one roof. It houses a café-restaurant on the first floor, a bespoke cocktail bar on the second, and a craft workshop on the third.
Their restaurant arm offers separate brunch, lunch and dinner menus. Lunch on weekdays features a mix of Japanesey rice bowls, waffles, and select sides; dinner on the other hand sees a full-fledged yakitori menu with a variety of skewers. For the weekend-only brunch menu, expect an extended lunch menu with similar rice bowls, and a few other items like The Refinery Cowboy Burger (S$22+) and Big Big Breakfast (S$26+).
We visited over lunch and found out they offered a lunch set, where topping S$5+ to your rice main gets you an agedashi tofu and a coffee/juice/soft drink. A very decent deal, especially when their juices go at S$6+.
Flat White (S$4.50+)
Nutty, bold, and rich, The Refinery pulls a pretty mean flat white. While it could've done with a better crema, the medium-bodied coffee was well integrated with the milk and foam, resulting in a delectably creamy joe.
We each got seconds to go, and found the coffee inconsistent though still good. The later flat whites tasted akin to a usual milky latte instead, lacking that creamy fragrance.
Salted Egg Onion Rings (S$12+) - Battered onion rings, salted egg yolk custard sauce
The crispy thin batter encased a ringlet of soft cooked (very real) onion, topped with a drizzle of thick and rich salted egg yolk sauce. Served in an adorable Chinese takeaway box, this makes for a visually appealing and pretty sinfully delish side. We would have preferred the sauce to be more savoury, especially when all the donburi mains feature really sweet marinades.
Gyuniku Donburi (S$14+) - Truffle hon shimeji mushroom, tare marinated skirt steak, spring onions, signature 72 onsen tamago
The rice and egg were cooked perfectly, and the strong truffle-scented mushrooms turned our light and very palatable. That generous a portion for 14 bucks is quite a steal - so it's a pity that the crux of the dish disappointed. The tare marinade was too sweet, and when liberally drizzled over everything caused every bite to resemble mouthfuls of sweet sauce. It overpowered the dish, honestly becoming a little gross after a while. Tone down on the sweet factor and it'll be perfect.
Kopi Addict Waffles (S$16+) - Coffee waffle, candied bacon, butterscotch gelato, 24h coffee-infused maple syrup
Similarly, this waffle failed due to its overwhelming sweetness. A great coffee-flavoured waffle with the perfect amount of crisp and fluffiness, wonderfully addictive coffee-infused maple syrup, and a decent scoop of gelato; this would have made an amazing waffle combination if not for the candied bacon that tipped it over. It ended up cloyingly and unbearably sweet. In fact having the original salted strips would've added a welcomed savoury component.
Several hits and misses puts this place as a meh in our books. While The Refinery is a little too heavy handed with the sugar, we appreciate the good techniques, execution, and decent prices. That and the wonderful coffee begets another visit. Perhaps we'll give dinner and drinks a shot next round.
115 King George's Ave #01-02
Tuesdays to Thursdays: 12pm-3pm; 6pm-12am
Fridays: 12pm-3pm; 6pm-1am
Saturdays: 11am-4pm; 6pm-1am