Saturday, 5 March 2016

George Street Social, Oxford

Where to Eat: George Street Social
Location: Oxford, OX1 2DH

It's been 3 years since I last posted here, but my friend and I have been enjoying the latest restaurant and cafe boom in Oxford, and so it's high time we revive this little blog again and add a few more thoughts in.

George Street in Oxford has seen quite a few changes recently. In the past year, the following popped up: Thaikhun (Thai restaurant), Banana Tree (Indochinese), Beard (pizza-craft beer pub), and now George Street Social, which bills itself as a "new coffee, craft beer, cocktail & canteen bar which aims to bring something a bit different in a sea of tax-dodging coffee shop madness."
The corner spot was formerly occupied by Java & Co, an independent coffee shop that wasn't as slick-looking as the others on the street, but it had quite cosy sofas and a big upstairs lounge area. Perfect for learning to knit (yes I did that once while sipping a hot chocolate) and chilling with friends. 

Anyway, since last September, the venue was sold to the City Pub Company -- they also run St Aldates tavern near Christ Church. 

The first word that comes to mind when you see the new makeover: hipsterville! The font, the crockery (wine served in tumblers for example), the blockpainted chairs and tables ... but don't let that put you off. Service is a little bit slow - perhaps there are still teething problems since they only opened a month ago - but we have been there twice now and there are some fantastic elements to their coffee-beer-cocktail canteen. 

We love that three-quarters of the shop is for lounging, drinking and eating, but that they reserve a section of the place for table service, so if you want proper sit-down meal, you can find a table. 

If you are going there to do a bit of reading or work, then George St Social is great - the tables upstairs have lots of plugs, free wifi, warm fleecy booths, and they don't kick you out if you don't refresh your coffee every half hour. They also have lots of board games, secondhand books, and a 'lego building corner' for the inner kid in you. 

I'm not personally a coffee drinker, so I can't vouch for the coffee quality, but their hot chocolate is absolutely excellent. We can taste real chocolate in it, not the usual cadbury-powdery crap you get in some coffee shops these days. I ordered the hot chocolate on two occasions - the first time was better with very intense flavours, the second time was less so, but still quite good. I will go back there for the hot chocolate. They also do quite a few pastries, including pastel de nata (loved it! although it would be better if it were served warm), cakes and flapjacks.

As for their real plates of food, we tried it yesterday and have mixed feelings. Presentation was excellent, but the food was a little pricy, and the descriptions in the menu were not totally accurate. For example, we ordered the '10 hours' pulled beef brisket bap, bbq sauce, wedges & slaw (£11.95). I'm not sure why 10 hours is in quotation marks - probably it wasn't in the oven for that long, but I wouldn't be less impressed if it said 6 hours! Anyway, the bap was fine, just a tad dry for me but my friend liked it, especially whilst dipping into the bbq sauce - but the overriding taste of the bap was the cheese. Cheese was not mentioned in the menu at all! Oh the wedges were very moreish too. 

I wasn't that hungry, so I ordered from the small plates section the salted cod fish croquette with chorizo salsa and apple puree (£5.95). The croquette was well made, the saltiness was good (better if you have alcohol to soak it all up) but they paired the salty croquette with a chorizo salsa which contained lots of capers. It would have been better to give the capers a miss. However, my friend liked the plate, so yes, a mixed review. 

We skipped the desserts on the menu because they hovered at six quid, which is more expensive than most upmarket restaurants in town. 

Overall though, this place is good for chilling out with a cuppa or for after work socialising, but I am not bowled over by the price or quality of the mains.