I’m never sure whether I like The Mailbox. Unfortunately the stag and hen parties that were once the fodder of the Broad Street bars seem to have found their way down the canal towpath to The Mailbox now, though I think they’re only really an issue on a Saturday evening. The venues are largely impersonal and bland, with even past favourites like Epernay and Estillo fading. It is however nice to see a couple of new clean, modern, and importantly, independent, venues pop up such as Aluna cocktail bar and restaurant, and Gas Street Social. Located on the middle terrace in the old Bar Room Bar unit, Gas Street Social offers casual dining with friends, and a very competent bar should you fancy a cocktail or pint overlooking the canal.
We’ve been a few times now, for dinner, and just for drinks with friends (though I confess I couldn’t resist the truffle arancini with a pint of Sharps Cornish Pilsner). The staff have always been friendly and attentive and the cocktails excellent. It is a little loud as they’ve adopted the industrial look du jour with no soft furnishing to swallow up the conversations of other tables: if you go on a Friday or Saturday evening be prepared to have a loud conversation with your fellow diners. It’s a fun place to go, and if you are so inclined you can sit on the terrace overlooking the canal and take in some sun.
For dinner we ate from their “Social Plates” menu. These are smaller plates, so you can choose a few and share. We had five plates for £26.95 between three of us, and also a side of garlic bread, and a side of huge crispy sticks of crackling with apple sauce. That was plenty.
Of the five plates we had, the crispy and golden Arancini (deep fried balls of risotto) richly flavoured with truffle was the winner for me. The portion of fish and chips was excellent with succulent flesh and crispy batter and a portion of minted mushy peas. The ox cheek had a heady meaty flavour though perhaps lacked a couple of more lumps of the delicious moist meat. I loved the wild mushroom gnocchi, and it was a good carby dish to go with our other choices. The chicken and mushroom vol au vents were acceptable but nothing to write home about. The very garlicy garlic bread was super. Obviously they also have a good selection of main dishes such as Salmon Fillet (£12.95), Sausage & Mash (£9.95), Seared tuna Salad (£12.95), burgers (from £9) etc.
They’re an early till late venue and we’ve heard good things about their brunch menu. I suggest though if you’re greedy like me you opt for the “Gas Street Works” (£9.95) rather than the “Full English” (£7.95) which is quite small. You can add bottomless belinis and mimosa for two hours with any brunch item for an extra £15 per person (great if you want a boozy catch up chat with friends over breakfast).
The drinks list is really good here. Do try the Sharps Cornish Pilsner if you’ve not already. The owners of Gas Street Social have a cocktail background in that they teach other bars, and have cocktail making schools in London, Durban, Cape Town, Antibes, the U.A.E. and other locations globally (if you’re interested then check out Shaker Consultancy), so obviously their drinks offering is special. We’ve tried quite a few cocktails (hic!) and can thoroughly recommend their twist on a Negroni the Negrogie (though it’s made and sold for 12 people), Brambles, Mojitos, and Espresso Martinis. Cocktails start from £6.95, with wine starting from £12 for 500ml carafe or £17 a bottle (though you can splash out if you want as they have a good selection such as the Sancerre Les Chailloux Domaine Fouassier at £42).
A perfect place to go with friends for a chat, some grub, and some marvelous cocktails.