Updated: Apr 18
We visited ‘SO’ and we met Ieuan Edwards who at the young age of 22, is the owner and manager of ‘SO’ on Whitchurch Road. He is a young Cardiff lad with a bright ambition and even sharper business vision.
So, what is the story behind ‘SO’
Ieuan was teaching sailing and water sports in a pretty and peaceful beach town called La Fosca, an hour north from Barcelona - “It was absolutely beautiful. I was there for about four to five months at a time over a span of three years. I lived of tapas and other Spanish food the entire time and loved it.” he says.
The way ‘SO’ came about was slightly peculiar. “My dad had a business here for over twenty years and after an accident he decided to rent the place out to a café. One day, I received a call from my parents saying that they got the building back and wanted to start our own business again. We thought that we could reopen it as a café.”
Ieuan was still in Spain at the time when this happened and he decided to come home and help them with this. He shares “We thought we were going to walk into a functioning workplace but it was empty. We stripped the place, tore down the walls and rebuilt the whole thing up.”
“I had absolutely no idea about the hospitality business. I learnt to make my first cocktail at this very place.”, he admits. After a trial of having a coffee place serving food and cakes, Ieuan had a vision of turning this place to a cocktail bar with a warm atmosphere and nice music where people could socialize and interact with each other. As he says, “When I go out with my mates, my favourite places are somewhere social, have a great atmosphere and are inexpensive. I wanted to bring this to ‘SO’. Now, not even a year down the line and we have ‘SO’.”
What about the name ‘SO’ ?
“There is a local charity called ‘Tenovus’ which was founded by my great granddad. When they were thinking of the name for their charity, one of the things they would often say is
"So surely between the Tenovus one of us can come up with a name."
So, when we were deciding names, we thought about the saying and went, ‘so, what are we going to call it’, ‘so, this’ and ‘so that’. The word ‘so’ kept popping up ever so often that we thought that SO would be the name for the place.”
The design inspiration: a blend of rustic charm and minimalist cool.
“I thought about what I look for when I visited places and the three things that came to me was fun, social and relaxed. My mum is an interior designer and she helped me to set up the place. She has really good taste and this also looks just like our home. I suppose the blue walls brings a sense of tranquility and a reflection of my time teaching sailing in Spain. The other feature wall with nature is projection of the lush Welsh greenery.”
What is the ‘SO’ food like ?
When it came to food, ‘SO’ plates are hands down Spanish. Ieuan, inspired from his life and tapas experience in Spain, he wanted to bring that over to ‘SO’ and create that atmosphere that he wanted for his business. “I love the social element associated with tapas – it is simple food which you share with friends and family.”
He and his mum came up with the menu. They took inspiration of Spanish dishes that they love and put their own twist to them. He shares with us:
“We went for simplicity; simple ingredients which we use raw to highlight the natural flavours. We do not over-season."
"[..] My mum has banned salt and oil in the kitchen so we use this quite moderately. We source our products from Spanish suppliers and do our best to bring the most of Spain to the table. I have had people say that it is one of the best meals they have had since they came back from Spain. All our food is freshly prepared and cooked on the day. Our wine also comes from Spain and we also serve a variety of Spanish gins too, with accompanying tonic.”
Are the tapas ideal for sharing ?
“The social element was very important as a concept for ‘SO'. As such, all the plates are made for sharing. For two people, I would recommend about two to three tapas. The chorizo slow cooked in red wine (Chorizo Al Vino) is a popular item and many of my customers have tried to force the recipe out of me.”, says Ieuan laughing.
Who makes the cocktails?
“Believe it or not, it is me. I learnt to make my first cocktail after I decided to open ‘SO’. Our signature and best seller is ‘The So Berry’. It is a very refreshing mix of fresh berries, Spanish vodka, strawberry jam and syrup, apple and lemon juice. I am proud to say that it is a home creation.”
‘SO’ stands out as it is a bump in far for friends and family to have a relaxing night out. It has a nice atmosphere and a personal touch. As Ieuan points out “ I can create a nice atmosphere as well - I enjoy talking to customers. The tables are also laid out in a way that encourages you to socialise with people around you.”
Ieuan shares his future plans for ‘SO’ brand
Ieuan aims to make Fridays as SO's regular music nights. He imagines that more like a Sangria day with a guitarist, in a certain type of vibe.
He is also thinking of developing the ‘SO’ brand - As he sharers: "I imagine turning it into an events hub, gigs, private parties or office parties. I want to open a second ‘SO’ in the city centre, about half the size of this focused-on drinks, music, some nibbles. It will be a dancing bar.
The clothing line is another area I am looking at as an expansion of the ‘SO’ brand.“
Ieuan advice young people who have concerns about starting their own business to have a vision - visualize what they want to achieve and ask for support.
- The End-
Learn more about 'SO' @sobarcardiff
Editor: Alegria Bohem
Copy Editing & Photographer: Eftychia Ntzereme
Interviewee: Ieuan Edwards
Location: Cardiff, UK
Date of Publication: 20|9|2019