GAVIN AITCHISON mixes his drinks at a trendy new hang-out in York.
IF you want to get work done, head to a café.
That’s not me talking. It was the irresistible headline above a small story in The Times a couple of weeks ago.
Apparently new research claims half of British workers find their local coffee shop a more productive environment than their office and more than a quarter would choose to work there if they could. (The gap between those figures suggests some may find the café more productive and therefore less appealing, but I digress.)
The piece resonated with me, and you can judge for yourself whether I was right to follow its advice. Because here I am right now, putting the theory to the test, in one of York’s newest, trendiest cafés, just a few minutes’ walk from Press HQ.
The Fossgate Social, opposite the entrance to the Merchant Adventurers Hall, is a little jack-of-all-trades, the A-board outside boasting of “craft beer, artisanal coffee, fab food, lovely garden”.
Its closest pre-existing equivalent in York would probably be The Attic in King’s Square, and it’s a welcome addition for those who want neither an out-and-out bar nor a dry café, including people like my wife and I, who have spent many an hour looking for venues that simultaneously offer top-quality coffee and beer to satisfy our respective cravings.
Sister and brother duo Sarah and Mike Lakin opened The Social in April and I promised then to take a look once it had found its feet, which it now seems to have done. There were a few teething problems evident early on: the grand coffee machine was not operating for the first few days and a few people reported hit-and-miss service, but recent visits have been utterly positive, not least thanks to the excellent selection of beers.
On keg on the bar are Brooklyn Lager, Thornbridge Jaipur, Aspalls Cider and Camden Pale Ale, the final one of which I have just enjoyed at the table between the fireplace and the back door, just beyond the bar. All are served in schooners, a two thirds of a pint measure not seen very widely yet in York.
The bottled range is more impressive still, with choices from breweries including Bad Seed, Goose Island, Brew Dog, Brooklyn, Camden, Coniston, Thornbridge, Schneider Weiss, Timmerman’s, Leffe, Anchor, San Miguel and Peroni, perhaps not universally conducive to the mobile working envisaged by the researchers in that Times article but eminently enjoyable – even if some of the darker beers, such as Anchor Porter and Bad Seed Espresso Stout may be too cold straight from the fridge.
After my Camden I went straight for the Brooklyn Summer Ale, which I’m quaffing as I type. It’s a crisp, refreshing golden ale, brewed using British barley and with an understated citrus flavour, ideal for a hot afternoon such as this one. For an extra £2 I also took a serving of mixed breads with oil and vinegar, from a simple menu that also includes toasties, pork pies, brownies, and the ubiquitous crisps and nuts, helping the Social to straddle the café/bar threshold with assured ease.
The décor here is what those with more of a clue than me in such matters might call hip or edgy urban. The bar and benches are made from old scaffolding boards, the raw brick is left exposed in places, there are quirky papier-mâché models and cartoon pictures dotted here and there, fairy lights around the fireplace, a random red bike hanging over one table (hopefully securely) and minimalist lighting, all contributing to a chilled atmosphere that looks utterly effortless but is clearly far from it.
A new exhibition of artworks by Jo Walton, entitled Rust, opened last night and will remain on show for a month, and there’s a small garden and gazebo for the sunny days of summer.