Food

Why Refinery Won’t Open in BGC-For Now at Least

The restaurant introduces a third branch, its second in Makati. Co-owner Bernice Tenchavez shares their simple recipe for success, and it includes staying out of the new booming business district.
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It’s a cloudy Saturday, perfect for breakfast in bed, actually. However, the scent of fresh pots of coffee and the smoky essence of bacon permeates the air, a sign that getting up for brunch was a good idea. 

Refinery is, and has always been, a brunch spot. “It’s not a date place,” co-owner Bernice Tenchavez warns. “If you come here at night and look at the menu, you’ll see it’s still the breakfast menu.” From its inception, the food— the third-wave coffee, and its relaxed West Village vibe— is designed to encourage casual, long-drawn breakfasts and lunches throughout the week. It is only the shelves groaning under the weight of wine bottles and craft beers that reveal Refinery’s evening persona.  “The wine-all-you-can is already a permanent thing,” Tanchavez imparts, pertaining to their popular after-hours promotion. “Our regulars demand it.”

Despite their current popularity as a night spot, though, Tanchavez admits that they are still primarily a brunch place. As she joins us for a meal in their third and newest branch in Salcedo Village, she shares that she’s happy to have stayed true to their brand which was established when they opened the first Refinery in 2013 at Rockwell.

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“If you noticed our menu,” she points out, “we keep adding new brunch options because that is what the regulars want. Since we opened, this is our third revision to our menu already, which I think is an indication that people really come for the food.” Chef Thirdy Dolarte has since added a beef pastrami version to their eggs Benedict line-up to offer variety for fans of the classic brunch dish. More omelette versions— including one stuffed with four different cheeses— have also been added to beef up their selection.

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The Morning After features, among others, a bacon slab with a sugary glaze that they make in-house. It also comes with a bibingka “soufflé” which is really more like a moist muffin accompanied by a salted egg anglaise showing some excellent technique on the pastry end of things.

Aside from food that is well-executed and consistent, the prices remain friendly which is really what gives Refinery the edge over the competition. Dolarte’s take on comfort food is current without being (cringe) hipster, always prioritizing quality over aesthetic. Although his skillet lasagna is total eye candy, with a generous serving good for two hungry people priced at just below P500. With that creamy bechamel mingling with fragrant tomato meat sauce between al dente flat pasta, flavors are on point.

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“Our success really does lie largely on the price point,” Tenchavez admits. “Who doesn’t want a good deal? It’s good food in a nice place, then at night we have the wine and beer promos.”

Therefore, they cut corners where they can, such as rental. “That’s why we cannot open in BGC,” Tenchavez confesses. “When we saw rent cost in BGC, we crunched the numbers and realized we’d have to raise our prices by 30% in order to break even. We didn’t want that.” She backtracks and says they are not closing their doors on the shiny, new business district. But, with cautionary tales such as Nicco Santos’s Hey Handsome closing shop before the busiest time of the year, Tenchavez and partners have every reason to be wary.

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Armed with business savvy and negotiating skills, the owners of Refinery are able to offer quality food at prices that keep their patrons coming back. Until the greedy landlords of BGC realize that their prices are making business unsustainable for many, people there will have to keep paying for overpriced coffee and tiny servings of pasta. But for those willing to breach that invisible wall between the two CBDs or find themselves in Greenhills (where, luckily, another Refinery is located), you know where to go.

Refinery’s newest branch is at G/F Frabelle Corporate Plaza, Bautista corner Tordesillas Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati.

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About The Author
Jaclyn Clemente Koppe
Chinkee writes and eats for a living. By living, she means cake. Or steak. When she's not eating, she's running her own blog-shop, OneBigBite.com.
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