The Summertown Wine Café

Price guide: Budget

38 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7JN

Price guide: Budget

The Summertown Wine Café

By Adrian Mourby, your Oxford expert

I write for Classic FM, Evening .... Read more
#17 of 27
expert-rated restaurants in Oxford
Expert overall rating:4.0 out of 5
Food and drink:
4.1
4.1
Ambience:
3.1
3.1
Service:
3.6
3.6
Location:
3.4
3.4
Value for money:
4.3
4.3
Recommended for:
Backpackers / Students, Families with younger children, First-time travellers, Singles, Chilling out, Escaping the crowds, No fuss, Relaxation

Expert review of The Summertown Wine Café

Oxford's most dedicated wine bar doubles as a morning café.

I like the staff at the Summertown Wine Café. They don’t take themselves too seriously. These nine young graduates are dedicated to serving and selling good wine, but they want more than anything for you to enjoy the experience. Not many wine bars open at 8.30 in the morning and serve you coffee while you’re using their WiFi for free.

The café opened in 2005 with a commitment to boutique vintages. Among its various marketing ploys is a happy hour when all house wines cost £3 a glass (house champagnes, £5 a glass) and an £8 tasting of twelve wines, which is then free if you subsequently buy a case.

Food and drink: 

Every month the café offers 50 wines from around the world, changing the range to suit the season. Of these, 30 are available by the reasonably-priced glass or 375ml carafe. The company also operates a best price guarantee; all wines retail at the lowest price in Oxford.

The food is unremarkable. It’s there really to help you pace yourself and to make sure you don't fall over. You'll find reliable baguette sandwiches, pies and soup. There’s a cheese platter for £9 and a meat platter for the same price. Serrano ham is offered at £5 with the urging that it goes great with red wine.

Ambience: 

The wine counter dominates the entrance. It's surrounded by label-less bottles decorated by members of the café’s Nude Bottle Society (membership of NBS offers not just the chance to create your own bottle design with marker pens but also discounts and free parking). Beyond the bar is a large modern conservatory with comfortable sofas and big low tables.

You have to not mind the occasional screaming baby in the morning - and their attendant mother; conversation tends to centre on who is / is not sleeping through the night. In the evening the atmosphere changes completely: noisy, affluent but rarely inebriated. Conversation turns to a different kind of night-time exploits.

Outside in the small garden there is a function room - really just a small summer house with sofas - that can be booked for special occasions. It's an odd but pleasant extra in an unusual but welcome enterprise.

Service: 

Amiable, enthusiastic but not intimidatingly vinophile.

Location: 

This corner shop in South Parade used to be an estate agent's. (South Parade runs parallel to Oxford’s North Parade – but half a mile to the north of it!) It’s an attractive Edwardian cut-through between the Woodstock and Banbury Roads that contains an art centre, art gallery, some expensive clothing boutiques, several restaurants and The Hong Kong - probably the best Chinese takeaway in Oxford. Liscious, a florid and eccentric interior design shop is just opposite the wine bar. From North Parade to South Parade is the heart of affluent Oxford Bohemia.

Price advice: 

Cheap food and good value wine. All snacks were under £10 the last time I was there. Wine is reasonably priced by the glass and very good value if you buy a bottle. I took home a bottle of Grüner Veltliner for £12.99 and was very pleased with it.

There is an inspirational notice in the lavatories pointing out that the cheaper the wine the more, proportionately, you are paying in tax. Looked at another way, you get more wine for your money if you by an expensive bottle than if you buy a £5 cheapie where most of your cash goes to the government.

Other useful branches: 

None – but The Summertown Wine Café has a sister property in London, the Finborough WIne Cafe.

More information on The Summertown Wine Café:

Price guide:
Budget
Type:
Café, Wine bar
Food:
British
Address:
38 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7JN
Telephone:
01865 558 800
Website:
http://www.summertownwinecafe.co.uk
Serves:
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Opening times:
Mon-Sat 8.30am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm.
Accepts Credit Cards:
Yes
Reservations:
Not necessary

Have you been to The Summertown Wine Café? Would you recommended it?