Sou Soul

Sou Soul's bar

A soulful offering to reinvigorate palates south of the Yarra

By Simon McGoram


Photography courtesy of venue

Address: 160 Greville St, Prahran, Melbourne

Phone: 9529 5670


Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11.30am till late

There is a definite changing of the guard in bar offerings south of Melbourne’s Yarra River. One venue that certainly brings this home is Sou Soul – a new corner cocktail bar that that brings together several dichotomies. The bar exudes inner city cool but maintains a relaxed local vibe. The design is intimate but open plan at the same time. And whilst diminutive in scale Sou Soul boasts loads of ‘big bar’ experience amongst its management team and staff.

Opened late March this year, Sou Soul occupies a site that has previously seen a number of cafes come and go as well as the old KISS FM headquarters and bar. Not uncommon in the bar biz, the owners wish to remain anonymous but Nathan Liascos – the venue manager (previously from South Yarra’s The Botanical) – tells us that Ryan Carroll heads the slightly ominous sounding ‘The Company’.

“Sou Soul is the owners’ first hospitality venture,” explains Liascos “however, veteran management and staff operate the venue. The SouSoul management team have many years of combined experience operating premium venues… such as Melbourne’s Golden Monkey, Berlin, The Botanical and Spice Market.”

Liascos explains that ‘sou soul’ refers to the concept of a ‘deep soul’. Certainly this is in line with the venue’s aim to bring a more soulful offering to the Stonnington precinct.

“Recently there has been substantial media ‘beat-up’ in Victoria surrounding the operation of ‘late night’ liquor licences, particularly in Melbourne’s busy entertainment precincts such as our region of Stonnington – a noted Melbourne ‘hotspot’… we felt it a prudent time to bring back a responsible, quality focused, and temperance-style food and beverage establishment.”

Sou Soul's intimate interior

The venue itself has an intimate interior complete with dark wooden furniture, cosy banquettes, long dry bars beneath the bi-fold windows and comes complete with an open fireplace. Being a corner site the venue’s bi-fold windows open up the space on two sides with substantial outdoor corner seating area to accommodate al fresco imbibers. I hate to use the hackneyed term ‘indoor-outdoor flow’ but if that actually means anything then these guys have got it.

“An interior designer was initially approached,” Liascos tells us, “but the result of that was pretty fruitless as they found it hard to combine the idea of intimate with an open-air environment. It so happened that one of the owners has an extensive background in the building industry so the final layout was eventually brought together by the owners and myself.”

What is particularly impressive about Sou Soul is the three-month period that it took to complete the project from conceptualisation to opening night. Liascos explains that major challenges included: “Time constraints, miscommunications and not having an ice machine on opening night! There wasn’t enough time for the bar to be structurally ready until the day of opening. Needless to say, this put a huge strain on the staff and the creation of the drinks list as most of the cocktails on the list required a lot of prep-work and trial and error.”

“The drinks offering at SouSoul is enough to make a teetotaling Methodist priest feel parched.”

Even with these time constraints the drinks offering at Sou Soul is enough to make a teetotaling Methodist priest feel parched. The list is a collaboration of ideas and drinks by Nathan Liascos, Priscilla Leong (ex-Golden Monkey) and Lachlan Kemsley (ex-Spice Market and Silk Road).

“Touching on the old and creating some strangely obscure drinks,” begins Liascos, “we have designed a list that aims to accommodate the uniqueness we all possess by categorising drinks according to their flavour profile – guiding the imbiber towards their palate’s preferences.”

Thirsty punters are thus guided by the clever ‘flavour tree’ – a flow chart /contents of sorts that leads the drinker to the page in the menu that contains drinks best suiting their mood and flavour preferences. If you like ‘dry’ and ‘floral’ for instance the tree will take you to page four of the list where you’ll find potent potables such as the ‘Sultry Temptress’ – a floral citrus cocktail with strong notes of juniper, lavender and sage, balanced with hints of peach. After something ‘rich’ and ‘spiced’, my preferences lead me to page five and the Smoked Cocoa Sazerac – a smooth and moody combination of bonded rye whiskey, chocolate bitters and a smoked whisky tincture.

A view of some of Melbourne's street art from Sou Soul

“To cater to small groups,” says Liascos, “we have also created a selection of punches and sangarees put together with fresh fruits, herbs and house-made syrups and liqueurs.”

The excellent cocktail offering aside, Sou Soul offers a superb beer selection – a must for any Melbourne bar worth its salt and something that most Sydney bars still fail to grasp! Try the Prickly Moses Otway Stout or the Wicked Elf Pilsner if you’re going local, a Trumer Pils if you’re feeling international or choose from three different ciders.

The wine offering fits comfortably on one page, but still manages to maintain a good balance of Old and New World wines. There are 12 offerings by the glass (none for over 11 bucks) and a selection sherries and fortifieds to boot.

A must for bars trying to attract discerning drinkers is a reasonable food offering. At Sou Soul the menu aims to encompass a wide variety of flavours from cultures of the world and deliver them in the form of share-plates.

“Most of the recipes used are collected from old family recipe books and revamped for the modern palate to match our drink offering,” informs Liascos. “The chilli tiger prawns, spiced pork belly, ginger crispy quail and Spanish potato bravas are just naming a few of our favourites.”

Sou Soul has 'indoor-outdoor flow'

Liascos explains that another key aspect of the Sou Soul experience is the music.

“To complement the mood of the venue and to create the vibe that we’re all about, we play a versatile range of sexy, laid back and eclectic tunes during the week. On the weekends it’s a little more soulful and jazzed up with live entertainment.”

Despite the major time constraints facing the team in opening this venue the first few weeks of operation seemed to have ironed out any creases in the venue’s offering. Indeed, Sou Soul’s design, food, drink, music and service elements have come together nicely evident by the crowds already seen at the venue.

Nathan Liascos is understandably confident that this soulful bar venture will be an ongoing success.

“We’ve created an innovative and original concept that is new to this area of Melbourne. We’re hoping to create a safer, more educated drinking culture that does not compromise on the fun factor. With a team of professionals behind the stick and on the floor we consider our product to be second to none.”

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