Refuel, Vancouver

Our jaws hit the floor when we learned that after three years of brisk business, Tom Doughty and Robert Belcham‘s Fuel Restaurant would suddenly be closing its doors. As it turns out, our shock was premature. After only three days of closure, Fuel has renovated, revamped, and re-opened as… wait for it… Refuel.

It’s no secret that Vancouver has become infatuated with a new, less stuffy (yet never completely unpretentious) style of dining, and Refuel fits right in. Taking on a “Casual Northwest” focus, the new restaurant has much more of a neighbourhood vibe than its predecessor. The old dining room was a bastion of stoic, un-camp tranquility, but ever since “fine dining” became a taboo term, it no longer seemed to fit the Vancouver restaurant scene.

Post-reno, Refuel is now playful and unpretentious. Light fixtures have been sheathed with twisting fir veneer, a large white-on-black residential garden mural has been erected on the dining room’s back wall. Lightboxes rotate and display closeup images of the menu’s ingredients. Designer Marc Bricault has taken every step to avoid “upscale” trappings. There’s even a new focus on music, with the restaurant’s soundtrack hand-compiled by the music snobs (sorry, “experts”) at Zulu Records.

Belcham remains as Executive Chef and Doughty remains sommelier, while Chef de Cuisine Ted Anderson and Sous Chef Jane Cornborough have helped created a new menu full of modified comfort food standards (something we’ve seen a lot of as of late). Dishes like buttermilk fried chicken and dry-aged Alberta Prime cheddar, bacon, beef burgers dominate the new card, with lowered prices to match.

Of course, this is still Robert Belcham in the kitchen, so there’s still a focus on quality local ingredients and freshness, just applied to more accessible dishes. Seared rare albacore tuna and whole confit Polderside duck, for instance, hardly feel like “diner food”, although there is the inevitable charcuterie board, here made from meats from The Cure. Restructured, the energy of the room now revolves around the 12-seat bar. It certainly fits the social focus of Refuel. After all, what’s a better social lubricant than a hand-crafted cocktail?

Address: 1944 West Fourth Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Contact: 604-288-7905
Cuisine: Contemporary
Area: Kitsilano
Venue: Restaurant
Hours: Daily: 11:30am – 12:00am
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express

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