Opening just eight months ago, Souths is the new kid on the Summertown block of coffee shops and cafes. I'm usually keeping my eyes peeled for an elusive car park space as I crawl down South Parade but yesterday suddenly noticed the bright blue facade and colourful chairs for the first time. I had been visiting the Turrill Sculpture Garden and on a whim decided to pop in for a coffee and sandwich.
Bright red and blue chairs are outside the cafe and as South Parade is a one way road, it has the Summertown buzz without feeling as if you are on a busy main road. It was a bit cold the day I visited, so I headed in to find a comfortable chair.
Inside, the decor is an unusual mix of leather sofas, high back black chairs, retro items and a candy store striped wall with a sprinkling of little red lampshade hovering over the tables. In line with the retro elements, they have a number of retro records for sale at £2 with the proceeds going to support the Oxford Wheels Project. The charity is raising funds to "build a permanent wheels based sports facility". The floor to ceiling glass windows at the front of the coffee shop allow in plenty of light and a good spot to watch the chic Summertown locals go about their business.
It was only just after 1 o'clock and they were sold out of sandwiches which was a disappointing start. However, the barista quickly offered to make me a ham and cheese croissant. I was expecting something a bit half hearted and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty offering with plenty of filling and a peppery rocket salad inside. My latte was also expertly put together with the frothy design on top. I particularly liked the retro style coffee machine which dominates the mid blue counter.
Chatting to the guy behind the counter, I learned that they attract a varied range of customers from the school kids from the nearby St Edward's School to the individual popping in on their way back from a yoga class. It's less suited to people with younger children as there really isn't the space for multiple pushchairs or highchair facilities.
Souths opens nice and early from 7am in the summer and 8am in the winter and stays open until 5:30pm (closed Sundays). They have a range of hot and cold drinks as well as milkshakes. They can do everything as a takeaway too so you could pop in to grab a decent cup of coffee on your way to work. Just over the road and accessed through the Summertown library is the Turrill Sculpture Garden. On a sunny day you could pick up a coffee and head over there to enjoy your hot beverage while taking in the latest sculpture exhibition.
There are a couple of things missing at Souths which could turn this coffee shop from good to great. Firstly what they really needed was a mouth watering array of cakes and buns to go with the great coffee they serve. There were a few pre bought items in a large glass jar available but I would have definitely bought something sweet if there had been some homebaked goodies. The barista who served me was friendly enough when I asked questions and was quick to make me a sandwich but in between serving was busy reading the newspaper. Without going all American in customer service, they do need to turn it up a little, a smile, eye contact and perhaps replenishing the sandwiches when they don't have customers to serve.
Overall this is a bright little coffee shop tucked away from the major hustle and bustle with the potential to be great.
Hi Claire, as co-owner of Souths, I'd like to thank you for visiting our cafe and the write-up, a very nice surprise for us! You'll be pleased to know we've solved the cake problem with some lovely, big, indulgent cakes and my co-owner Matty is less inclined to read the paper now!! Hopefully see you again in Souths soon, kindest regards, Gareth