Pics credit Gareth Lowe

Any self-respecting foodie will know about and have been salivating at the thought of The Refuge, the 10,000 square-foot bar/restaurant/hangout in the Palace Hotel. Luke and Justin, of Unabombers and Volta fame, are the curators of this astonishing space which has now opened its doors to the public.

The entrance is on the corner of Whitworth St and Oxford St rather than The Palace Hotel lobby. This is crucial because as we entered The Refuge for the People’s Lunch, any idea that we were in a hotel went straight out of one of the large and rather gorgeous windows. The bar area was animated and relaxed. Beers were being poured, coffee being slurped and the venue already had an atmosphere and a vibrancy that some eateries never manage.

As you’d expect with 50% off for their soft launches, spaces are filling up and you’ll need to get booking sharpish, but rest assured, The Refuge is big enough and diverse enough to cater for lots of different budgets. We sat down to get stuck into the People’s Lunch, a constantly changing bowl of hearty, filling food for £7.50. On this occasion the choice was between squid and pork belly. A little more refined than pie and chips, it was a generous portion of balanced and tasty grub that no one could grumble at in terms of value for money.

A space such as The Refuge is fairly rare in Manchester and it’s refreshing too see them stick with local suppliers where possible. Local roasters Heart and Graft are providing the beans while a constant selection of big name beers will be accompanied by a rotating line up of six keg beers. Expect the likes of First Chop, Track and other local micro-breweries to make an appearance.

The logistics of managing such a huge bar and restaurant catering for brunch, lunch and dinner will undoubtedly be a challenge for the Volta duo, but given the skill and attitude we’ve seen so far, we think The Refuge is in very safe hands.

Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA

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