Private members’ clubs in Hong Kong are nothing new—decades of colonial openings including the most coveted country clubs, jockey clubs and yacht clubs have led the city to house a range of prestigious members-only venues. Aiming to connect like-minded individuals, private members’ clubs are a great way to network and socialise—with perk facilities like expansive swimming pools and exclusive restaurants reigning in guests from allover.
More recently, the city has been seeing more modern clubs crop up, including the highly-anticipated creative hub Soho House. Another recent, under-the-radar venture, The Refinery by Swire Properties is a contemporary gem nestled within Taikoo Place. Cha Siu Papers Times visited the private club’s restaurant, the Main Dining Room, where Michelin-starred Chef Jacky Chan cooked up a meticulous six-course menu, comprising signatures including his award-winning “The Eastern Pearl” soup.
A contemporary haven
Situated in the heart of Taikoo Place, amid Swire’s surrounding venues, The Refinery is a private members’ club designed for working professionals to host meetings, social events and to unwind with guests.
Managed by the world-renowned Peninsula Group, the establishment stays true to its minimalistic design and five-star hospitality, with a modern update. Decked in an art-deco-inspired theme, The Refinery Club is tastefully decorated with chic interiors and a muted colour palette to keep things clean and simple.
The Club is strategically located amidst the office blocks at Taikoo Place. It’s a little tricky to find the venue—but follow the instructions or signposts throughout the building and it takes you to a private lift entrance. As a regular gym-goer at PURE, I was already familiar with the club’s convenient location and was ready to see it live having walked past many times before. Stepping out of the private lift, we walked out to be immediately greeted by the reception and its friendly staff.
Here, members check-in or can request a viewing with a pre-scheduled appointment. On the right, the sleek gym offers utmost privacy compared to regular gyms, with its own sauna for post-workout relaxation. Like its mother brand Peninsula Hotels, the gym reflected the same high-standard (and stringent hygiene), immaculate setting found at its own in-hotel fitness areas. Although the space is quite small, it’s well-equipped enough with machines and weights to get a good workout in—perhaps on a lunch break or after work. Further facilities include the bar, lounge and terrace.
Main Dining Room
We walked through the club towards the restaurant—The Club’s Main Dining Room—which specialises in authentic Cantonese cuisine with a contemporary twist. The open-air venue welcomes business and leisure members to sit back and indulge in the fine cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Jacky Chan—a Michelin-starred, Peninsula-trained mastermind behind the menu. Guests seeking more privacy can dine at one of the three semi-private dining rooms or the private dining room for total seclusion. On the walls, artworks by American artist Nicholas Johnson light up the room with a splash of colour.
After several culinary stints with different branches of the Peninsula Hotels and at Cuisine Cuisine in the Mira Hotel (where he earned two Michelin stars during his time there), Chan has led quite the career in Cantonese cuisine. At the restaurant’s peak era, Chan’s father fell ill and he was left to make a life-changing decision which led him to temporarily leave his culinary path and pursue a new journey which allowed him to spend more time with his father—a choice which he stands by to this day.
Moving to The Refinery, Chan curated an innovative Cantonese menu, incorporating subtle international influences to coincide with the overseas members’ acquired tastes. We spoke to the chef during our dinner experience and (through translation between Cantonese and English), we learned that he finds a lot of his influence through his previous experiences and through modern-day culinary trends which gives him room to experiment. A very humble and modest man, Chan gave off a warm, authentic character and it was a joy to speak to him although briefly.
Chef Chan’s serves a contemporary Cantonese approach to his menu at The Refinery, a strategic decision which caters to overseas travellers and local expats who may have an acquired palette, giving them a good in-between. We tried a variety of his speciality dishes, including an award-winning pumpkin soup.
Award-winning ‘The Eastern Pearl’
One of the chef’s most notable and proudest dishes is ‘The Eastern Pearl’. The pumpkin soup is filled with crab meat and truffle shrimp quenelle, a dish which won him the gold award for a competition hosted by Hong Kong Tourism Board in collaboration with the Chinese Culinary Institute. The judges thought that the dish was creative and also represented Hong Kong’s identity,” says Chan. “Soup is a very important aspect of Cantonese cuisine, but I wanted to give it a contemporary twist using different ingredients and plating it differently.”
The centre of the soup features a smooth, springy shrimp paste ball made with truffle to represent the pearl of Hong Kong. Smooth and sensual, the pumpkin soup had a nice consistency and was well-complemented with the indulgent truffle shrimp ball. “I wanted to create something special for the members here, many of whom have been with me since the days of the former club – Butterfield’s,” says Chan. “What’s unique about working at a members’ club is getting to know your customers and having that intimate experience.”
Modern Cantonese specialities
Glazed in indulgent Osmanthus Syrup to replace traditional honey combinations, the Crispy Eel Fillets used a pan-fried eel fillet was an appetiser to prepare us for the dishes ahead. The eel had a splendid, crispy exterior, while the Osmanthus syrup provided a less sweet flavour than honey, with more focus on its floral aroma.
This was one of my absolute favourites. The Deep-fried Jumbo Prawns with Fresh Mango Salad Dressing was a rich, subtly fruity dish, using tender, Vietnamese prawns and ripe Filipino mangoes to curate an exotic taste I’d never tried before. Chef Jacky blends the mango into a purée so that the prawns are coated in a tasty sweet zest, for an enticing flavour at every bite.
“I wanted to create something special for the members here, many of whom have been with me since the days of the former club—Butterfield’s. What’s unique about working at a members’ club is getting to know your customers and having that intimate experience.”—Jacky Chan, Executive Chef at The Refinery Club
A very unique dish, to say the least, the Sautéed Egg Whites and Milk with Black Truffle and Pine Nuts uses Hokkaido 3.6 milk (which is celebrated for its creamy texture and vanilla-ish taste), for a strong hint of milk. Originally a very oily dish in Cantonese cuisine, Chef Jacky updates it with a health-conscious spin by using minimal oil (as little as one teaspoon) to make it as naturally smooth as possible.
The Deep-fried Chicken with Garlic and Crispy Rice, again, took a healthier, modern update to the classic Cantonese dish often seen at banquets. Taking one full day to prepare and marinate the chicken, this dish is sprinkled in crispy rice to add an enhanced flavour to the already-crispy chicken skin (whilst minimising greasiness). Crunchy and coated in a delightful sweet sauce, the chicken took a winning tribute to Chef Jacky’s impeccable, innovative fare.
Finally, we had the Sautéed Spotted Garoupa Fillets with Asparagus and Preserved Black Olives, a more traditional Cantonese dish from Chef Jacky’s menu. The authentic stir-fried dish used garoupa due to its non-fishy taste, helping to complement the asparagus. Although this dish was a traditional concoction, it could have done with a little bit of spiciness to add a unique flavour to the much-loved banquet dish.
The Refinery restaurant is an exclusive members-only joint, but after trying the exclusive dishes by Michelin-starred Chef Jacky Chan, we now understand why members are rewarded with such a privileged chef. The six-course tasting menu was an absolute delight—all the dishes were so well-curated and full of unique flavours, it was unlike any Cantonese tasting I’d been to before.
Chef Jacky’s innovative spin on traditional banquet dishes made a tasteful impact on the menu. Members can make use of the range of facilities including the outdoor terrace, the architecturally-stunning dining room, the fitness centre and the private dining rooms. In the heart of Quarry Bay—one of Hong Kong’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods and already-well-established business and financial hubs, the Refinery Club makes an intimate respite for urban city dwellers.
Special offer for Under 35 Members
The Refinery, Taikoo Place’s private members’ club, offers a special membership option for those under 35 to enjoy its exclusive facilities at just HK$500 per month. Privileges include full use of the dining facilities, lounges and terrace, as well as the fitness centre at HK$100 per visit.
Highlights of Under 35 Membership
- No entrance fee
- Monthly subscription fee of HK$500 plus a monthly F&B minimum spending of HK$500
- Members are entitled to enjoy full access to all dining facilities
- Members are entitled to enjoy Fitness Centre facilities at a rate of $100 per visit ($100 can be waived for personal training course)
- Access to all Reciprocal Clubs in Hong Kong and different countries
- Waiver of 10% service charge
- No spouse card option
The Refinery Club, 4/F, Dorset House, Taikoo Place, Hong Kong, +852 2216 5700, refineryclub.com