Headline: it’s a bar that does food, not a restaurant that does (really nice) cocktails, so go there with your work friends for drinks, not for a fancy meal. Corporate money has polished up decor trends that were better off with splinters in
Mulla: £110 for 1 x ridiculous toast starter, 3 x steak mains + sides, 1 x pudding, 2 x mocktail,1 x large bottle water.
Devil’s in the details…
Last night Mr. Mack, Mr. Fell and I took our places at a table at Gas Street Social. Having all heard a fair bit about what has been described to me as the ‘best bar in Birmingham’, and seen plenty of snaps on the old IG, we were keen to see what all the fuss is about.
It’s very, very easy to like the place. They’re bang on the shabby industrial trend with the decor – almost nautical, with a grey, blue and then natural theme (scaffolding, faux-wood tables, resin floors etc). The lighting is original – lots of dressing table style bulbs lighting up the place (Edison bulb free, I noticed). The welcome is warm, and the staff are aplenty so you’re never short of attention in what is quite a substantial venue. The menu is concise but extremely well thought-out; the ‘theme’ of the restaurant is fresh food, locally-sourced, made for socialising (the focal point is sharing plates with a choice of 9 dishes). The owner explained to us that the meat is from a farm in Leominster (I think?), and that everything is made in the kitchen, every day. How true this is I’m not sure (pudding put doubt in my mind!) but the effort is duly considered and appreciated.
The bread we ordered to share to start with was a disappointment – it was essentially toasted granary bread, with a scrape of butter. You can not serve fucking toast. Give me focaccia, with a split sauce. The mocktails we had were to die for though, I’ll grant them that. Really special.
Main course was rib-eye for all three of us (no fucking about), with creamed spinach and kale for me, buttered mash for Mack and some sort of gay salad for Fell, obviously. I never, ever eat steak that isn’t fillet because I’m a descendent of the French Bourgeoisie or something, but I gave it a try because that was the only steak on the menu. It was tender, and really quite ginormous, served with a grilled tomato, a flat mushroom and some foliage. Now this is really me being pernickety, but the presentation was on par with what you’d expect from a £15 steak at the Harvester – far too much space on the plate, giving the impression that you’ve not got enough food. We had no steak knives, nor salt and pepper on the table – the pepper we did receive wasn’t peppercorns, which is a shame if fastidious on my part.
Then after some consultation from the waitress as to whether the blueberry cheesecake or the pistachio crème brûlée was the better option, in the end she’d had neither (big no-no – let your staff try everything!) so upon Fell’s insistence I went with cheesecake. For £5.50 I want something better than I could get in Tesco Express, and yet there I was, a meagre, rectangular block of bang-average pud in my face. Cry.
On the whole I think it’s fair to say that Gas Street Social needs to serve mainly as an after-work hangout for the city’s not-yet-rich cliques, with food if you’re really in need. There is an actual bar there, and we did go last Thursday evening but could barely get a toe through the door, so I think that backs my conclusion up. Whilst the menu is promising, it’s not ground-breaking and delivery is average at best. The decor is on trend, but there’s something taken away from an industrial look when it’s very obviously been done with a lot of money and to perfection. It almost turns it into something cheesy; I imagine that if TGIs rebranded now, they’d pull the exact same look as Gas Street out the bag. Industrial, rustic vibes need imperfections, not polished, 3-times treated resin floors. Realistically, whilst on the face of it giving off a Digbeth-esque vibe, it’s just corporate Mailbox all over, served with a smile.
Images from Google