Today's choice is a newcomer to the Oxford café scene. Having opened in Spring 2012, Souths had completely passed me by until a few days ago when I happened upon the blackboard outside promising smoothies, milkshakes and wifi in addition to great coffees. I was, at the time, waiting for a friend to join me for a post-work coffee at the nearby Summertown Wine Café, causing me to doubt whether this was really the greatest location for a café. Tucked away in the chic South Parade area of Summertown, Souths is nestled amongst hip bars, restaurants and expensive boutiques which means that it's in a prime location for attracting the moneyed yummy mummies of North Oxford. I had also read that the café hoped to become a sort of "external common room" for students of nearby St Edward's school.
On an overcast Sunday morning, I went to Souths in search of a caffeine fix and was disappointed to find the place closed. Not a great first impression: what café these days is closed on Sundays? Determined to give the place a try, I returned the next day, armed with my laptop to test out the place's suitability as a working venue. Branding itself as an internet café and with a sleek interior, I had high hopes for the place. Scanning the room I noticed a distinct lack of homemade cakes, or any cakes for that matter. In terms of food, all that was offered was a few pre-packaged muffins and two jars of large manufactured cookies. Also, somewhat bizarrely, on the empty shelf above the bland selection of chilled soft drinks were two jars of jelly sweets which, presumably were to accompany the milkshakes.
The coffee list was lengthy, though didn't feature my desired beverage that morning, a mocha. I tried my luck and ordered a mocha with soya milk, extra hot. Coffee-wise, this was looking promising with options including skimmed milk and the aforementioned soya. The drink was brought over to me forthwith, served with a speculoo. I picked up the cup and took a sip of my extra-hot mocha, which was disappointingly lukewarm. I'm the kind of person who likes to have my lips scalded by steam as I hover them over the cup, so will mark a place down if it can't make a decent, hot drink. My chocolatey choice might have been a rather teenage option, but warm milky drinks are for children before bed and should never be served to an adult in broad daylight, especially when she has specifically asked for her drink to be served extra hot. It's about listening to your customers.
When the owner brought the coffee over, I politely asked whether I might have the password for the wifi, this being marketed as an internet café. He said he'd sort me out with one, and went back over to the counter. And that was the last I saw or heard of him. As I had other things to be getting on with and so, evidently, did he (namely chatting to another customer who was obviously a friend of his), I decided I wouldn't ask again, hoping that in time he would notice his mistake. So, a second black mark has to go against Souths for the owner following that infuriatingly rude trend amongst staff in chi-chi cafés and shops of gossiping to people they know and failing to acknowledge the needs and requests of the remainder of their clientele.
Despite a number of areas for improvement, Souths isn't a bad place. Uncharacteristically, I didn't need a wee during my time there so I can't comment on the state of the toilets on this occasion, but I'd hasard a guess that they're as new and clean as the rest of the place. The atmosphere is pleasant enough; it's quiet and all the better for it. Aside from being rather on the cold side, my mocha was delicious. Provided there aren't too many Mummies with screaming infants, and the staff remember to give you the wifi code, this could turn out to be a pretty good place to work. With plenty of weekend papers floating around, it's well-suited to kicking back for an hour or so with a coffee. However, if you're looking for delicious cakes, pop a few doors down to the Summertown Wine Café for an indulgent slab of their latest homemade creation.
Customer Service: 2/5
Carrot cake bonus: Not awarded.