Situated on George Street funnily enough: on one of Oxford’s prime eating streets, both a blessing and a curse, George Street Social has become the queen of revamps and redecoration projects. We went along to see if its latest reincarnation was worth sidestepping the copious other cafes and eateries vying for our attention.
It was remarkably easy to get a table in the café, perhaps because it is still less well known, but more plausibly because there is a lot of space. The café is over two floors with a variety of styles of tables and chairs: normal tables with chairs, high tables and bar stools, long sofas along one wall on the ground floor and mostly booths upstairs. The whole mood is one of comfort and relaxation, which could not fail to affect you even if you’re suffering from an extreme essay crisis. Another advantage over other locations is the extended opening hours: George Street Social is open for food from 9am to 10pm.
The décor is well worth the time (and presumably money) that has been spent on it. The new chairs are extremely comfortable and I could easily spend hours in them, avoiding the shoulder ache that comes from hours spent hunched over a laptop. The stairs are themselves a lovely feature, with beautifully illustrated book titles combined with cocktails, like the book Tequila a Mockingbird and Bridget Jones’ Daiquiri!
A special mention has to go to the great selection of soul and motown tunes played at a comfortable volume. One of our pair is a Northern Soul junkie, so this pleased us greatly and had us toe tapping and humming along when other customers in the café were undoubtedly trying to complete very important work, for which we are truly sorry.
The coffee is a bit mediocre, the cappuccino had too much foam and it tasted good but not great. They have a wide variety of ‘speciality teas’ available which the staff politely explained in full when asked. The Mandarin tea was pleasant and served in a charming cup, much more charming than the glass tumblers the coffee was served in, which some purists may find rather hellish.
Curtsey of their stall at The Oxford Union’s fair, we had a voucher for a free sharer. Both looked very good, but we decided to go for the more expensive option at £17.50. It came served on a board (#WeWantPlates sprang to mind) but the overall effect was pleasing and made for a great ‘sharing’ experience. The meat and fish part of the platter, which included a pork pie, prosciutto and salami, was surprisingly copious and filling. The cold meats were slightly oily, perhaps because of the dressing on the rocket, which wasn’t pleasant but didn’t spoil the taste too much. The veggie impressed the vegetarian of our duo. The halloumi wasn’t too overdone; it did not resemble a squeaky piece of rubber as is sometimes the case. The trendy ‘slaw’ was appropriately vinegary and tangy and there was a nice sized portion of hummus, a vegetarian classic: it’s not blood that runs through our veins, but hummus. The meat portion definitely outweighed the veggie portion so our advice is to share this among your meat-eating pals.
There was a slight issue with our order, as the platter was supposed to be accompanied by sweet potato fries and dips. However the sweet potato fries were nowhere to be found. After several enquiries it was revealed that there had been a mix up with the order and the matter was resolved with an extra large portion of fries. But without the voucher, to pay £17.50 for a sharing platter where one of the main components was missing would have been disappointing. The elusive fries themselves were well cooked and seasoned with sea salt flakes and herbs but we could both have done with a little spice to liven them up a bit.
We’re both really enjoying the lemon water trend, and we both took full advantage of it to wash down our platter. It’s a very nice touch that makes the meal feel fancy and also makes you feel like less of a cheapskate when you ask for tap water.
Verdict: Go for the food rather than the coffee, but it is a more relaxing place to work than other intensely packed cafés- it is hard to resist the mini macarons though!