Bright but cosy, lively but low-key, George Street Social is an intimate venue with good food and a nice atmosphere. Downstairs is a coffee bar, while upstairs is divided into a library section with board games and plenty of books, and a simple dining area with unusually comfortable booths. The management seem to have seized the 'quirky mismatch' décor zeitgeist with both hands, and come away clasping a surprisingly solid and pleasing result. The furniture is pretty and serviceable, the books, games and lego wall displays create a homely but playful feel, and the three different areas are comfortably distinct.
We visited on a quiet Monday evening and found the staff welcoming and extremely eager to help. The menu promises much, and delivers pretty well. The starters were the triumph of the evening: smashed avocado, goats curd, dukkah and toast was a sublime combination, while the smoked mackerel, roast beetroot, watercress and pink grapefruit provided a mouth-watering mix of savoury, sweet and sour. The avocado dish was a bit heavy on the toast, while the mackerel cried out for some, but that worked out fine, as we just shared. Portion sizes are a little hit-and-miss across the board, perhaps to cater to different appetites, but a bit difficult to predict. The gargantuan pulled pork bap with celeriac remoulade dwarfed an elegant salmon fillet with broad beans, but both were delicious. Potato wedges were crisp without and melting within, vegetables were carefully cooked and sensitively combined, and everything was nicely presented and delivered with smiling attention.
The small cocktail menu should be very well received by spirits enthusiasts, judging by the two we tried, but I found them a little challenging. I struggled to finish a 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' dominated by vodka, and my companion's 'G & Tea', while finely flavoured, also threatened to overpower. We might have done better sampling their promising beer list or the soft drinks menu which includes Firefly tonics and homemade lemonade. Any mild disappointment in the cocktails, however, was immediately redeemed by GSS's excellent practice of offering a selection of blameless wines by the carafe - or in this case, by the old-style glass milk bottle - and by the pleasingly risky decision to serve water alongside in the same. With the early evening lights aglow, who's to tell the difference between a milk bottle of tap water and one containing half a litre of viognier? We've all been there.
This is a really nice venue which tries to cater to a variety of very different tastes and seems to get away with it. Decent dining, fancy cocktails and interesting beers, relaxed games and reading and of course – coffee – coexist in unlikely harmony. With starters from £5 - £8 and mains between £9 and £16, two courses and a modest amount of wine will set you back a little over £50. Well worth a visit.