Food prepared at former opium plant has drug like effect on customers
The refinery's indoor dining room has a classic atmostphere
It is an odd name for a restaurant.
But "The Refinery" is actually a nod to the building's interesting past. It its original avatar, the building was the headquarters for a major opium refinery during the French colonial days, and its architecture reflects it.
Set in a square of sorts off busy Hai Ba Trung Street just opposite the centrally located Park Hyatt Regency, the French bistro offers a more-than-pleasant dining experience marked by good food and good service.
The food, mostly French and Italian, has succeeded in attracting a regular expat and local clientele who frequently crowd its terrace and indoor service areas.
The terrace offers a nice view of bonsai; fully grown trees and high-rise buildings in the city centre.
Inside, the atmosphere is distinctly old Saigon, with its dome doors, red, white and black tiles and black and white photographs on the wall.
We chose a table at the terrace from which we could look at people in the open area, a courtyard of sorts for a cluster of bars and eateries that have become one of the most popular spots in town. I could also see people at the bar and other indoor dining areas through big glass doors.
In front of us, on the wall, was a bamboo painting featuring the poppy flower and next to us were some pretty creepers climbing the wall. The ambience was relaxing.
The menu has an appetizing selection of French and Italian style salads, sandwiches, side-dishes and main courses, desserts and ice creams.
74 Hai Ba Trung Street,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Duck confit at The Refinery
The atmosphere gently prods you to have a glass of wine, connoisseur or not, and it certainly complements the food.
This time, my friend and I both chose a pasta dish. He opted for fettuccine with pear, gorgonzola and walnut sauce and I for fettuccine with bacon, mushroom and cheese and duck confit.
The last time we were here, the person next to our table was having a pasta that smelt so good that we had to try it now.
The duck confit was good, but the fettuccine was superb a warm-hearted dish with a passionate combination of pasta and a lot of cheese, mushrooms and chicken. We were suddenly very quiet as our attention was focused on enjoying our meal to the hilt.
It was a hot evening and we were in the mood to stay out on the town, so we ordered some desserts - homemade vanilla ice cream, cheese cake ice cream and chocolate and rosemary sorbet.
We were full, but our eyes were still roving, selecting dishes for our next meal here. My friend settled on seared salmon salad with avocado puree, poached egg and hot mustard dressing, black and white sesame chicken salad with rice vinegar dressing.
All this good food and wine (a glass each) and good service comes at a price, so the dinner put us back by about US$60. That we are looking forward to our next visit shows it was well worth the tab.