I find it tricky to put The Refuge by Volta into words. It’s one of those places that, even though it still feels really new, has quickly become an icon of the city. It’s actually a hotel bar, set in the grand, revamped Principal Hotel, formerly the Palace Hotel.
The building dominates Oxford Road, a red brick behemoth built at the end of the 19th century. I went to a showbiz party there before it was redeveloped, and it was a proper dump, desperate for some love. Now it is a decadent Manchester landmark and The Refuge by Volta is its beating heart.
Two local DJs, the ‘Unabombers’, have transformed the space, taking full advantage of the original decor. The cavernous space features glorious, enormous glazed tiles every where you look, and the new interior design compliments the old. Although one big room, it has been divided into several spaces; I like to dine in the glamorous restaurant, have beers in the ‘Den’ and take visitors for afternoon tea in the stunning Winter Garden, complete with conservatory roof. The main hall regular turns into a dancefloor, with some of the city’s best DJs playing records.
The menu, both for eating and drinking, isn’t cheap – this is a place I go to treat myself – but miss it and you’ll regret it. See you on the dancefloor?