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Common bar review

Helen Ramsbottom appreciates a Northern Quarter original

Written by . Published on June 1st 2010.

Common bar review

Late Saturday afternoon post-retail therapy, time to refuel and rest the soles of our feet; Common was the destination.

Common in some respects sums up the best of the Northern Quarter. It’s independent but knows what it’s doing, it’s funky, original and cool.

Tucked away on Edge Street in the Northern Quarter the previously tiny little bar has had a makeover in recent months. The original bar space has an unfinished finish that’s clearly deliberate, with chipboard on the DJ booth, a collection of mismatched furniture and large unadorned shop front windows.

Artwork is painted directly onto the walls in places and Common also has a calendar of exhibitions that keeps the interior varied. Knocking through to the premises next door has created new space and this hosts the ‘Kestral Suite’. With exposed brickwork, booths, comfy seating and a separate bar that can be used as an entirely separate function room.

Vanilla Mojito

This particular Saturday we’re sat in the main bar area, sunlight is streaming through the windows and there’s an easygoing vibe about the place. There wasn’t anywhere to sit outside but if there had been it would have provided a proper little suntrap. Music mixed between soft house and Diana Ross and The Temptations to name a couple: suitably mellow for the time of day. Of an evening you can expect various genres from electro, disco, indie and pop.

It should have been cocktail o’clock but given that I’m on a ‘body challenge’ for 3 months, the devil’s juice was off the list for me. Cue my friend Cath to work her way through the list and impart her thoughts to me.

Reasonably priced at £6 a pop there is a choice of sixteen to choose from; long, short or martini, a few old favourites and some twists on classics. I opted for a Strawberry Mule but minus the vodka kick - what a delightful drink though. Strawberries, lime and ginger beer. I can see that concoction getting me through the coming months. Cath started off with a Bramble, moved onto a Straw ‘Jerry’ Mule (same as mine but a version with Sailor Jerry’s), skipped onto a Vanilla Mojito and rounded off on a simple water. Clever girl. These all received the full seal of Cath’s well oiled approval, scoring well for balance, flavour and originality.

Halloumi and Falafel Kebab

The bar is well stocked with spirits; Havana rums, Hendricks, Bacardis, Woodford Reserve and many many more jostling for space on the shelving.

Beers on draught, or by bottle, include the usuals, Staropramen £3.50, Boddingtons £2.80, Hoegaarden £4.20, Leffe £2.40 (half pint), Cusquena £3.30, Duvel £4.20, Liefmans Fruit £3.30. If you take advantage of their ‘super special membership’ you can knock 10% off the cost of all drinks and food any time, day and night.

The food offering includes a selection of specials on the board including a cheeseburger with chips and salad £7, falafel and halloumi burger with tzatsiki, tomato, cucumber & houmous chips and salad £7, American club with pastrami, gherkin, mustard, chicken, bacon and avocado £5.50, lamb kofta kebab £6.

On the standard menu there’s bean or hoops on toast with cheese £3.50, a selection of toasted sandwiches available on ciabatta or focaccia with options such as tomato, pesto, mozzarella and basil, Lancashire cheese and red onion marmalade, meatballs and mozzarella and jerked chicken and cheddar £4.

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

We opt to share a selection.

First up is the courgette and pesto soup (£4), which is a tad bland. But I guess courgette soup was never really going to set the world’s taste buds on fire. Nearly burned the gob off me though as it was served piping hot. Cracking croutons.

Brie and cranberry buttie next. Fresh herby focaccia bookended the filling and was delicious but there wasn’t quite enough Brie for me. A bit skinny with this but I do much prefer the bias of more internal ingredients than the outer when it comes to my sandwiches.

Courgette and Pesto Soup

From the specials we dug into the chicken and chorizo stew (£6). Served with flatbread and soured cream this was lush. Enough chunks of chorizo to keep me happy. I hate it when dishes list chorizo in a starring role and then you get literally 3 tiny pieces. Tender chicken and a mix of veg had taken a good bathe in the tangy tomato sauce.

The falafel and halloumi kebab was less pleasing. £6. Disappointment with the halloumi portions. Kebab is synonymous with chunks of food in my mind. And these were most definitely slivers. No more than a few millimetres thick. Whacking great wedges of falafel mind you. And moist at that. Full marks on the falafel.

Strawberry Mule

The food is reasonable value if Common can be a bit kinder with some of the main ingredients. Overall portion size was good and for a light bite in a bar the selection ticked the boxes. It will be interesting to see how the offering unfolds as their website says this is something they’re developing in coming months.

All staff were helpful and friendly at every encounter. Just as we were leaving it had started to get really busy, some people rounding off their day others just setting out for the evening. Cath was particularly amused when I had to take a pic of the facade and her ex was sat outside with a new squeeze. She practically legged it down the road as she thought he might think I was trying to get photos of him. Funny.

Common in some respects sums up the best of the Northern Quarter. It’s independent but knows what it’s doing, it’s funky, original and cool. It knows its audience and its audience loves it. If you’ve not been try it.

Brie and Cranberry Toasted Sandwich
Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 3/5 food
4/5 drinks
4/5 service
3.5/5 atmosphere
Address: Common
39 to 41 Edge Street
Northern Quarter
Manchester M4 1HW

0161 832 9245

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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

Hungry nowJune 3rd 2010.

Great review Helen...Helen goes where Gordo's too old to tread!!!

dj slowlyJune 4th 2010.

all very good BUT the word 'butty' should only ever be preceded by 'bacon' or 'chip'. and that's a sandwich fact. otherwise it's just plain common... unintended, i'm sure

Temporary HeroJune 4th 2010.

Actually DJ Slowly, I think you'll find that the sandwiches you refer to should only ever be provided on a barm, not a 'butty', and that's a lunchtime fact.

northern know it allJune 4th 2010.

perhaps if you're a southern fairy... otherwise i think you'll find butty is northern dialect for any sandwich...

Leigh ScottJune 4th 2010.

I am a southern fairy who has lived in Manchester and the other side of the pennines for the past 20 years. I have never heard anyone from South of the Watford Gap refer to any kind of sandwich as a barm. In-fact all I ever heard in the south of england was sandwich, sarnie; butty or a roll. In Derbyshire you will go get your snap for lunch, in South Yorkshire you might get some get some Scran but in Greater Manchester and all I ever see in a chip shop are signs selling chips in a barm cake.

Barm cakes are everywhere and I hate it !

We all speak English and following Lord sandwich's own invention,It's a sandwich-end of! Go to Sainsburys and see if you can pick up a prepacked egg and cress fucking barm cake and take a picture of it!

Leigh ScottJune 4th 2010.

And another thing, its alright all you Winterbottoms and Ramsbottoms writing up about Sex and the City and making skinny women references on body confidential et-al, only then to complain about how little Brie is in a lunctime "SANDWICH" take a look at that sandwich it's got brie falling out the sides FFS how much do you want?; enough to slap a layer of cellulite on each thigh just before the end of the shopping trip so you can all moan at how the shops make your jeans and skirts things the wrong sizes...

Greedy so and so's go get a salad!

Temporary HeroJune 4th 2010.

Are you on some kind of uppers today Scottee?

RAMBOJune 4th 2010.

erm exsqueeze me scoteee - did i personally rattle your cage...? blow up the pic it is skinny on the brie compared to the bread balance - my point about the balance of a BUTTIE ;-) no SATC skinny women references from me. i LOVE my food and no mistake!

Temporary HeroJune 4th 2010.

I think he was suggesting your a typical SATC type lass, albeit (hopefully) far younger than them.

To test that theory, how do you feel about shoes? Would you say you're pretty blazé about them, or have you ever had a weird/obsessive SATC over enthusiasm about them?

NortherngeezerJune 4th 2010.

One would never eat a brie butty would one.

Smyth HarperJune 4th 2010.

That mojito looks very tempting...

ramboJune 4th 2010.

ms winterbottom has written a SATC article but that's nowt to do with me - despite the erm 'bottom' link. i had a random shoe obsession when i was younger but the less said about that the better. it can't fail to come out sounding all wrong. and i did build myself a new shoe wardrobe for the hall the other week. so i guess scoteee's got my number on that one...

RAMBOJune 4th 2010.

ha ha ha. it was the nature of the obsession i considered random. as in it didn't follow common pattern of behaviour that would be demonstrated by other people. it involved an OCD alike 'initiation' for each new pair of shoes. believe me random is like er, literally the best way to refer to it.

Leigh ScottJune 4th 2010.

I like this fella he speaks sense, we need to have a beer, not a "random one" but a planned beer so we might discuss this attitude toward the English language,

For example, I hate it when people talk in that (I am going to correct your ignorance whilst patronising tone), and say "In actual-fact"

A 'Fact' is fecking actual otherwise it wouldn't be a fact would it?. It's an open field for shooting smart arses when someone says that as far as i'm concerned.


GordoJune 5th 2010.

Rambo, you will learn, like the rest of us, to stay away from the rants on your own articles. Rarely can you win, whilst you will get more work done ;-)

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