Bon Appetit: The Refectory’s Jazz Dinner Club
Dining at The Refectory in Columbus has been on my Central Ohio bucket list for quite awhile.
The French restaurant and bistro began as a church–Bethel United Methodist Church–in the mid-19th century. Through the years and decades, the structure underwent many changes, additions and even a move; eventually, it became too small to accommodate its congregation and was sold to a group that transformed it into a restaurant, The Olde Church-House.
The Refectory (the word for an eating room or dining hall in a monastery or convent) acquired its current name when it was purchased in 1980. As its website so eloquently phrases it: “The Refectory, to some a landmark of dining greats in this city: to others, a link to yesterday where, beneath its old majestic ceiling, the spirit of its past and the presence for which it was set apart can still be felt.”
The majesty of the old structure is evident as soon as you pass through the entrance. It feels elegant yet inviting, as if you’ve just walked into a friend’s (very nice) home.
We don’t usually go to the type of restaurant where you check your coat (that happens when you have two kids under the age of four), so attending the Refectory’s Jazz Dinner Club last month was a step out of our comfort zone. It was in celebration of our five year wedding anniversary so we wanted to do something special.
We’d researched the four-course prix fixe menu ahead of time: Chilled Shrimp and Pumpkin Ragout with Shiitake Mushroom and Arabiatta Vinaigrette; Butternut Squash Veloute with Duck Confit and Roasted Ohio Turnips; Duet of Grilled Veal Medallion and Roasted Scallop with Porcini Supreme Sauce Roasted; and for dessert, Chocolate Terrine and Almond Terrine Pistachio Crème Anglais.
Did we know what half those things were? Nope. It made for such an exciting, pushing-the-boundaries-of-our-taste-buds evening. Had we gone just for dinner, we’d undoubtedly have played it much more conservative. (Me: Pasta or seafood. Husband: Steak.)
The Jazz Dinner Club takes place in a smaller, private room of the restaurant with a number of round tables set up throughout. Reservations are required for the music events, which are limited to the first 38 people.
We took a seat at a table for two in the corner. The atmosphere was calming, with candlelight and the clinking of wine glasses and faint chatter as people waited for the evening to start. We looked over an extensive wine list (you can also choose to add a preselected wine flight to complement the evening’s menu, or try a glass or bottle of your own) and were cordially introduced to the gentleman who organized the Jazz Dinner Club series.
The evening’s music was a special treat: The very talented Adam Schlenker Trio–that evening featuring Denison University music professor and fiddler extraordinaire Andy Carlson–filled the room with an upbeat fusion of jazz, folk and bluegrass with some laid-back chatter between songs to share the stories behind the music. It was easy to look around and see smiles at every table–and even a toe tap and head bob or two.
Every course of our meal was enjoyable and clearly had been meticulously selected and prepared. We would have had a great time just eating at the Refectory, I’m sure–but Jazz Dinner Club took our anniversary celebration to a new level, one that we’re certainly glad we got to experience.