Common – NQ, Manchester

For those who regularly frequent the Northern Quarter in Manchester, you’ll have realised that Common has very recently undergone an extreme transformation. For those who have never been to Manchester before, well, you should.

I’m writing this review partly to stick a middle finger up to the numerous bad reviews I’ve read about Common over the past week, and partly to share the very pleasant experience I had whilst there. We visited Common by accident on a very busy Saturday afternoon, after wandering aimlessly through the Northern Quarter trying to find somewhere suitable to take my mum for a drink and a bite to eat. Walking past the Edge Street “Social, Eatery & Coffee Spot” as it is now branded, we barely recognised the place.

The once tiny bar has been replaced with a more-than-adequate, naturally designed space, and the place feels a lot more open and friendly. Staff were attentive as soon as we entered, and we were quickly offered a large wooden table, where the dingy booths once stood.

I was planning to knock up a mean paella that evening, so we settled on a number of small plates to share between us to tide us over. (With a side of beer and cocktails, naturally). Our waitress took our food and drinks order and cutlery was brought to us after about five minutes from sitting down – for those complaining of service speed, is this good enough on a busy Saturday afternoon? I think so.

To cut to the chase, the food was incredible. For a group of people who were planning only for a nibble on some mediocre bar food, this exceeded all expectations. The Korean Chicken was amazing, the smoked salmon with beetroot was dribble-worthy and the potato skins were the perfect companion. We also devoured the beef-brisket fries with jalapeños, which were not only well stocked, but smothered in toppings. The plates were more-or-less licked clean after about ten minutes, and a member of staff checked on us twice to make sure the food was ok and to check whether or not we needed anything else.

The new and fresh decor only added to the whole experience, and the whole ‘IKEA’ appearance, – which is a comment I saw crop up in a number of reviews, makes the bar look clean, bright and edgy.

For what it’s worth, the prices are also extremely reasonable for a Central Manchester bar. Three small plates came to a grand total of £12, which is an absolute bargain, and our bill came in well under £40 for three small plates, a huge bowl of chilli-fries, three alcoholic drinks and three coffees.

For those whining about the new Common, making claims that it has “lost its charm” and “the service is terrible”, I think you may need to take another trip and re-evaluate. Common was good before, and it’s even better now. Yes, it has changed, and for the nostalgic Northern Quarter revellers, it’s like watching your baby grow-up. But you need to let that baby go so it can spread its wings and flourish. 5/5.

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