Common – Northern Quarter, Manchester

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Common’s had a makeover, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact I thought I’d point out. Don’t worry all you lovers of their stripped back look, they’ve gone for an even more minimal, industrial look; think Ikea, without the bright colours or bookcases with pieces missing.

We popped into Common for lunch this week, mainly because my dining companion had wanted to go to Home Sweet Home (he’s lived in the Northern Quarter for years and never been in), but it was full of hip young things drinking hyper-sweet milkshakes and eating day-glo coloured buttercream,so we popped next door, because ‘t’were new like,’ grown up looking and quiet.

Quick scan through the menu and we realised they’d moved away from the burger/comfort food/slightly rustic heaviness and added small plates and meals with a fresher, lighter feel: refreshing to see somewhere in the NQ stepping away from messy piles of Tex Mex Americana and forging a food identity all of their own (don’t worry, they still do burgers, if you haven’t got over that yet).

If you go to Common and you are unsure what to order, I will tell you what you’re going to have:

1. Shak shuka; a middle eastern version of huevos rancheros (eggs baked in spiced tomato and peppers). This is a staple dish for me at home, but Common’s subtly spiced, cumin warmed, pepper heavy version was delicious, especially as they’d managed to keep the egg yolks runny. Which I can assure you, is a feat of kitchen skill.

2. Korean fried chicken: a sticky, sweet, garlicky, crispy, spicy delight. Utterly more-ish, they should
make a larger version for people who don’t like sharing. Like me.

3. Popcorn cockles – all establishments should serve these tiny, crunchy, salty morsels of amazingness – however I doubt they’d manage to keep the cockles as soft and the batter as light as Common’s. I want whoever the chef is at Common to come to my house and marry me. I’m on the market for getting wife-d up and anyone who can come up with these dishes is probably the person for me.

We also had the smashed avocado and tomato on toast – lovely and fresh, would be a great light lunch for non-pigs. I’d probably take the almonds out of the tomatoes, as they didn’t add anything, but it pleased me to know I was eating one of my portions of nuts and seeds for the day (because things like that worry me at night). In addition the veg chilli on chips was great – plenty of not too wet chilli, melted cheese and salty/crispy fries – it was just over shadowed by the amazing-ness of everything else.

Oh and I ALMOST forgot – Common has expanded into the (viz lovely waitress) ‘scary basement and popped in a bit of a bakery.’ Now all their cakes are made in house and are very reasonably priced compared to their competitors: NOT NAMING ANY NAMES, BUT SERIOUSLY £5.50 FOR A SLICE OF EFFING CAKE?

Whoops, got giddy before
Hand thrown pot

Anyways, digression – for £1, Common is selling little chocolate orange truffle things (they’re not that small though) – like a chewy date and chocolate heavy thing, with orange. Fit. And according to the waitress they’re made with raw things and cocoa, which is all good for you. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit anything else in and we had to leave, or I would have eaten them all. I need the recipe.

So a note about the new decor (I know you’re all desperate to know) – think concrete, grey, open kitchen, light wood and you’ll have it (their images here). There are long refectory style tables and hand potted lamp shades – if you like minimal, scandi, industrial chic you’ll love it. I love the new makeover, I love the new menu, I love Common. But the chairs are a bit uncomfortable for old people like me.

Price for one snack, one side dish, three light bites and one cake: £23. Dishes range from a couple of
quid for a snack, around £4.50 for a light bite and up to low double figures for a main meal.

Food – 9/10
Atmosphere – 7/10 (quiet, but it was Wednesday mid-afternoon)
Service – 8/10
Value for money – 9/10

Total 33/40

Common, 39 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HW, 0161 832 9245, Twitter, Facebook.

Please note, Common had no idea I was there until I started mouthing off afterwards on social media. Bloggers do actually pay for most of the meals they eat out. Mostly.