Café Critique: Society Café

Society Café: so cool we didn’t know it existed. That’s a little bit of a stretch – Society Café only opened in Oxford in Trinity term of last year, despite having two premises in Bath. But one of us lives just across the street from this premises and has never ventured inside; in her own words, “it looked too cool for me.”

“Too cool” was not inaccurate. Inside Society Café high tables with bar stools abound along with magazines like ‘The Gentle Woman’ and other artsy reading material. There is a surprising amount of space, as not only does the café extend quite far back but there is also a downstairs section, where we sat.

If felt like a basement, admittedly a cool underground basement, but a basement nonetheless. The toilets continued this basement theme with concrete floors and a less than hip hole in the wall. The blackboard paint wall with quirky messages written on was charming until we thought about the toilet hands those chalks had come into contact with. To top it off there was also a worrying, what we termed, ‘soapstick’- a bar of soap on a stick that had definitely seen better days. Very grim in our opinion.

Moving on from ‘soapstick’ (I wish we could totally move on but we may never forget), the bench outside Society Cafe is quite a nice touch, depending on the weather and the state of St Michael’s Street. If it is sunny you can look out onto the Union and watch the antics of the squirrels and by squirrels we mean frantic Union hacks.

The coffee is great, but still not up to Natural Bread Company or Missing Bean standard in one coffee drinker’s opinion. It is less bitter, so if you prefer a sweeter coffee you might enjoy it more. A cappuccino costs £2.80 and a flat white £2.70 (no difference between take away and have in prices), but they are smaller than similarly priced coffees elsewhere.  

The tea options were plentiful and the green tea came with its own tea timer. All teas cost £2.40 except the ‘White Peony’ that costs £2.60 and sounds like a beeze of delicate petals for your mouth. We have no evidence that this is true, however, the ruby iced tea looks particularly appetising, a blend of various fruit teas in an iced version!

The moreish chocolate fudge cake costs £3.30 to have in (£3 in take away) which seems unreasonable until you realise that it’s more difficult to finish than the Mission Burrito challenge as it’s so rich.

The baguettes, though they look quite good – prosciutto, mozzarella and ham/cheese baguettes are on offer, are ridiculously expensive at £4.80 each. The pastries and cakes are more reasonably priced and look very nice. They are all served on ubiquitous blue edged white plates, which look old but are clearly new!

Verdict: We’ll be back there asap but definitely not for lunch (or for the notorious ‘soapstick’). It is a very convenient location for a quick breakfast pastry, but it’s a tad expensive for standard coffee (at least if you have coffee as often as we do!)