Common Bar, 39-47 Edge Street, Manchester, M4 1HW – Visit Now
Its overhaul caused controversy, but Common’s artful new look gets our vote.
People don’t like change. Look at Cornerhouse. Despite the fact that it was creaking at the seams, and housed inside a building whose shape and size can best be described as really bloody awkward, many reckon they’ll hate its all-new incarnation on point of principle. And look at Common. The Northern Quarter’s favourite art bar reopened a few weeks ago after a complete overhaul – and the initial response was one of dismay.
But change is inevitable. And the all-new Common makes a quiet point. Its new spill-out-on-the-pavement design has made it roomier, lighter and just that bit more grown up. Fully retractable windows, a whole lot of plywood and bespoke ash tables, an open bar and bare brick walls have injected a little Scandi-style in to a bar once known for its street art-painted walls – and made the whole place feel more spacious. The decision to knock out the kitchen and toilets, sticking them latter in the basement instead, was a clever move, then. It opened up an inch or two here, a foot or two there – and with Common still heaving after work of a Friday, the forty extra covers it now has are welcome indeed.
Change may be inevitable, but sometimes change is also good.
The interior is by local furniture and interiors designer, Peter Masters – also of Oi Polloi fame – while the ceramic fittings, those pale grey lampshades, coffee tampers and bespoke beer pump handles, have been made by Joe Hartley, whose solo exhibition at the Craft Centre a few years back first showed what he was made of. His work isn’t just architecture. It’s the first art commission from the all-new Common, as the photographs of his work on the walls attest. There’s also talk of Hartley creating ceramic takeaway coffee cups and, if they come off, we suspect they’ll be things of stripped-back, functional beauty – a riposte to the throwaway versions we guiltily get through at a rate of knots.
As to the things that matter, the beer and the food, the signs are good. Common is now open from 9am (10am on Sundays), with an emphasis on food, and table service, that it didn’t have before. Breakfast is available until 2pm; ranging from granola, stewed pears and porridge to Shak Shuka, smashed avocado and the Common fry-up, the menu caters to all tastes. At night, a tapas-heavy menu is good for after work eats and moves things on a bit from standard burgers-and-fries fare. The salads, dips and small plates we tried were all solid; a couple were stand-out. Craft ales are many, with “ten keg lines and two cask stars” according to the blurb – but, mainly, all you need to know is that Common is bigger, brighter and, yes, a little better than it used to be. Change may be inevitable, but sometimes change is also good.
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