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Common Bar

Lena Peter finds that Common in the Northern Quarter has rare qualities

Published on April 8th 2008.

Common Bar

Continuing with my snail-like tour around the bars of the Northern Quarter, last week saw me dropping into Common on Edge Street. Common is one of the Northern Quarter’s lesser known bars, being off the main drags of Thomas Street and High Street and therefore a bit less prone to the ‘frontless dress brigade’, as 'Frank’s Trousers' from the Confidential ranters succinctly put it a couple of weeks ago on the Bluu review.

Chilled tunes, changing artwork, friendly staff and punters minding their own business make it the perfect place to read a book, have a chat with a friend, do the crossword or just wait until the snow stops - as I did.

Common sits on the corner of a street which doesn't seem quite of the up-and-coming type, and has always been identifiable by its graffitied exterior. A while ago, the outside hosted great designs but these have been replaced by a mainly lime-green paintjob, plus one painted design.

Inside however, art remains a big focus of Common’s work. Common has always had a policy of letting local artists display their work and presently sees Rob Bailey exhibiting. The weird artwork covering the toilet walls is also still there, reminding girls to check their lipstick and ‘be fabulous’ (grimace). Sorry – I just had to mention the toilets again, I feel I need a trademark and this might be it.

However, on to the main aim of a bar – the drinks and the food. Common is a tiny space, and the bar itself is similarly small, but the selection of drinks is small but interesting. Beer on tap is Stella, Frulli, Staropramen and Guinness and the bottles also find space for some more lesser-spotted beers such as Lagonda IPA from Marble Beers on Rochdale Road and Maisel’s Weisse. It’s good to see a small independent bar stocking a beer from a Manchester brewery and the Lagonda (£3.60) was light and citrus-ey, despite being apparently named after a car make.

The spirits behind the bar also show a wide variety of decent brands, including many flavours of Stoli, black Jack Daniels, sloe gin and even a twenty-one year old Glenfiddich (£5.00) nestling at the back. The wine list is short, at two whites, three reds and one rosé but the quality of the wines is pretty good, focusing on European, rather than New World.

Common also offers a limited menu. There were two choices of soup of the day – ham and pea, and butternut squash – plus beans on toast and toasted sandwiches. A focaccia of tomato, pesto, mozzarella and basil (£3.80) was filling and pretty tasty but it looked a bit lonely on its bare white plate devoid of any accompaniment. The food in Common is strictly no-frills.

Common is a bar which attracts its regular customers, mainly art-studenty types and the local designer set who come to play on their Macs during the day and to listen to the music at night. The staff are also of this type but are friendly and helpful, jumping up from the sofa to serve you, and clearing empties on a regular basis.

Common loves its music and has a range of nights featuring mainly indie-disco residents, including Wes from students’ favourite Up the Racket. As the bar is small, it can get rammed at evening weekends, and queues can form outside.

It’s not worth queuing in the rain to get into a packed bar, but it's worth going into Common – especially in its quieter moments. Chilled tunes, changing artwork, friendly staff and punters minding their own business make it the perfect place to read a book, have a chat with a friend, do the crossword or just wait until the snow stops - as I did.

Common isn’t flashy, or aspirational, or even particularly comfortable, but it’s not supposed to be and that’s why it's distinctive, different and just the sort of bar people want from the Northern Quarter.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 2.5/5 Food
4/5 Drink
3.5/5 Decor
4/5 Ambience
Address: Common
39-41 Edge Street
M4 1HW
M1 2EJ
Mon to Weds 12pm - midnight
Thu 12pm – 1am
Fri-Sat 1pm-2am
Sun 2pm - midnight

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30 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

alexApril 8th 2008.

spent many an weekend afternoon in common. excellent bar, great staff, great music. not the attitude filled deansgate locks rubbish that the rest of the northern quarter seems to have morphed into. walrus anyone?

JamesApril 8th 2008.

So right, if the Northern Quarter exists in reality rather than being a dream then this is the sort of bar that would inhabit it.

AliApril 8th 2008.

Common is OK - but nothing special... how can you rate the drinks selection 4/5 when it's 'small' and 'Beer on tap is Stella, Frulli, Staropramen and Guinness'... nothing amazing about that offering IMHO ;)

BAM!April 8th 2008.

BAM BAM!! Why do people who drink in the northern quarter think that it belongs to them?? BAM! Your just as pretentious as those who frequent the Locks.... BAM! 'All i hear on here is... lets not turn it into Deansgate' BAM.... Manchester belongs to us one and all wherever we want to go... BAM BAM BAMMMMM!!!

Stout JohnApril 8th 2008.

I s'pose Common could stock O'Hanlon's Port Stout, available in bottles. Bottle-condtioned stout with a background of Port? YES!!

loveitloveitApril 8th 2008.

I am part of the I LOVE COMMON bridage, its great, you always know what to expect which is a lovely atmosphere, genuinely cool customers, friendly staff, great artwork, good drinks and snacks!

Tom Jones' LovechildApril 8th 2008.

I used to like Common. It was a lovely friendly place. You could sit and enjoy a book and a cuppa tea or a nice refreshing beer.Past tense.It was after a recent incident involving me leaving a beloved record behind in the bar on a Friday night (admittedly this was a Tom Jones record) and when going back to pick up the forgotten record I was told by the 'friendly' bar staff that the last time it was seen it was smashed in a pint glass.Is this a friendly loving place?Not for Tom Jones or his many (yes many) devoted fans.

John WareApril 8th 2008.

haven't been since they tried to charge me for entering.

Old School NQerApril 8th 2008.

£3.20 for a pint of lager!!!!I mean I could understand if the place cost £100k to kit out but its made of plywood, stickers and left over fuzzy felt.I don't agree with your comment on the staff! They are all part of a clique and unless you know them (I presume with your glowing review that you do) you are made to feel unwelcome.Maybe I am just getting too old for this kind of place, but i'm still too young to start frequenting the wheatsheaf. What to do, what to do.....

NickApril 8th 2008.

No Stout though. Bad oversight if you pride yourselves on beers...

CampbellApril 8th 2008.

I don't have skinny jeans, I have fat ones, and I can get in fine and enjoy the whole general bohemianness of it. A great bar.

Lady RenApril 8th 2008.

Yep last time i went the toilets still stank and could be smelt from the bar!!!

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

I don't have skinny jeans or a stripey cardigan or a silk scarf round my neck with a pencil thin tie on. Will i still be able to get in or will they charge me extra for not looking the same as every other bloke in the northern quater?

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

Thanks for that. It's not like the Deansgate Locks lot have ruined the Northern Quarter already or anything... You keep on telling them about what's on the backstreets aswell so that we'll all be within a metre of a WAG wannabe no matter where we turn soon!

Miss MApril 8th 2008.

I love Common, but last time I went there they were charging to get in! I know it's only £2 (after 10 I think it was) but what's that all about?? Charging to get into a pub??

ilovefilm more than the northern 1/4April 8th 2008.

i seem to spend more time watching box sets and films nowadays after the revolution of ilovefilm.com....but, I think the whole northern quarter is great and there's something for everyone. Big fan of Bay Horse and TNQ in summer. Must admit I like to avoid the place at weekends as its too busy! Can't wait for series 6 sopranos to arrive!!

JinkiesApril 8th 2008.

Love Common, it's pretty much the last bastion of hope for the n4, if only more places were like this.Sadly though, whoever mentioned the toilet smell - it stank of piss on the side near the toilets last time I was in, didn't realise it was a regular thing - really wish they'd do something about that

smartiemcrApril 8th 2008.

The beer on tap selection might not be huge but they have a great selection of decent German bottled beers, like Franziskaner. Thankfully this is the sort of bar the Deansgate WAG types just don't get. It's not sanitised and plastic fantastic enough for them!

JanieApril 8th 2008.

Common Bar is great. I'd recommend their Apple Pie vodka - it's bloody fantastic!

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

£2 to get was a surprise but the charming young man on the door was worth the admission price alone. Thumbs up all round, top bar!

Stout JohnApril 8th 2008.

Whoops. Perhaps I should be a bit more local and mention Marble Brewery's Chocolate Beer. In fact while I'm here, I'll also big up Wye Valley's Dorothy Goodbody Stout: not too local but pretty good.

ancoats girlApril 8th 2008.

Sounds like the beer selection has improved - they didn't have Guinness on tap last time, or bottles like Lagonda. They also have Monkey Shoulder whisky which is lovely. Not a pleasant place to be on a rammed Saturday or Friday night, but fine when it's quiet. Very uncomfortable benches though!

Tom Jones' Lovechild...April 8th 2008.

I also find the social and class division on this website ever more shocking. You would have thought people who frequented the 'cultured' (as they would like to believe) Northern Quarter would have more open minds.

the wordApril 8th 2008.

Over priced, over cliquey and over-all devoid of any real atmosphere. Don't waste your time and save your hard earned cash.

SiApril 8th 2008.

I refuse to set foot in the place again after they tried to serve us cocktails without any alcohol in. Staff rude and lacking any customer skills. Absolute rip off. Don't go.

NickApril 8th 2008.

I take it back if there's Guinness on tap. That's new.

ktfairyApril 8th 2008.

I used to like Common - but you were able to smell the toilets even from the far side of the bar. i hoep this has changed - can anyone let me know and I might go back.

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

Please stop publicising the area. There's enough trash round there on a weekend as it is. How about some nice articles on Revolution, hmmm? Or maybe 'The Locks Revisited: It's Actually Quite Nice'. Please keep them in Bar 38!

Big Steve!!April 8th 2008.

Yes!! Yes!! In the FACE!!!!!!

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

I used to like this place until they started charging for drinks! As for the smell near the toilets, that'll just be the owner Jonny, he doesn't wash his jeans.

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