Gas Street Social, Wharfside Street, The Mailbox
Gas Street Social is the place to head for brunch at the start of a hen do or the day after: before you start, you can kick off the celebrations with bottomless bellinis for £15, while the day afterwards the menu offers a half pint of berocca free with any brunch. Luckily, there is plenty to like if alcohol doesn’t play a key part in your vision of brunch; the food is all-round delicious, and I’d definitely return.
The Mailbox has three rows of restaurants stacked over the canal, and Gas Street Social sits bang in the middle of the middle row, which means it has a lovely view down the canal towards Gas Street Basin. It was a popular venue at 11am on a Saturday, without being full. It is a large restaurant space for a brunch venue; a group of 10+ women on a hen do were seated in an alcove section and the large group didn’t disturb the pleasant atmosphere of the rest of the restaurant at all. Inside, the word social really does seem the most apt to describe the atmosphere. The central table is filled with help yourself goodies, such as a choice of infused waters (I had water from the jug filled with strawberries and it was delicious), and the toast point for the all-you-can-eat toast on the menu.
There are various areas you can sit in, from the alcove towards the back which seems designed for group bookings, to American-style diner booths, the bar area, or a variety of standard tables fitted with different styles of retro chairs. We sat in a booth and spread the papers everywhere. It was comfortable and stylish.
The food which arrived was delicious, although with every single thing we ordered there was a problem with the service. The staff offered us the full works English for free to make up for these problems though, and were very attentive during the meal. Tea came in a one-cup pot, in lovely cups in the chunky tea cup style that seems so popular at the moment, marrying the daintiness of a tea cup with the solidity of a mug. Top marks for crockery. Service problem: the second cup I ordered never arrived at all.
The eggs Florentine were perfect. Sauce, spinach, egg and muffin all cooked exactly right and full of taste and flavour. The perfect volume of sauce had been used. You get a choice of one or two eggs, at £2.50 more for an extra egg (which seems steep for just an egg). Top marks for delicious food. Service problem: no eggs Benedict, my first choice dish, was available as they had run out of ham. I blame the hen party.
The full English was reviewed as ‘as good as you’d get in the Lord Clifden’, which makes it one of the best Brum brunches in terms of quality ingredients. The ‘Hockley toast’ seems to have been made of Peel and Stone bread, or if not, it is artisanal bread from the Jewellery Quarter, and was triply good: artisan, delicious, locally sourced. Sauteed half new potatoes rounded out a dish of the classic full English ingredients. It also comes with a cup of tea or coffee included in the price. Top marks for delicious, local ingredients. Service problem: it was delivered to us without any egg, and then taken away for five minutes and sat under the lights waiting for the egg to be added. This was the point at which they apologetically assured us this dish would be free.
The toilets might be one of the best things in the Gas Street Social; I took twelve pictures trying to capture how great they are. The washing area comes with a whole extra set of mirrors and stools for fixing hair and makeup, which must be marvellous in the evening when it becomes a cocktail lounge: no more awkward sharing sink space with people trying to apply mascara and touch up lipstick. The whole bathroom has eco-friendly sensor lighting, so when I stepped into a deserted room it was pitch black for a second before the lights snapped on.
They have taken a lot of care with the lighting in here. The lights above the sinks are surely-very-expensive upended collections of basins with bulbs inside, and in each of the many toilet cubicles a helpful arrow points out the toilet.
Price: pricey end: £9.95 for the full works, £6.95 for eggs Florentine with 2 eggs
Atmosphere and design: social, welcoming to large parties and small groups
Food: quality, local ingredients, but not all options available and some missed off our order
Toilets: spacious, luxuriously decorated, very well lit: some of the best in Brum
Enjoyment: social, all about the alcohol
In summary: great place for brunch with friends