Restaurant review: Common Ground, London

Common Ground cafe London
Tim Firmager
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Common Ground café and eatery in Finsbury Park, London has launched a new plant-based and vegetarian evening menu, so we at Vada popped in to try the new dishes.

Common Ground

Common Ground is known locally for serving seasonal, sustainable food and coffee in a relaxed environment, offering a refuge from the busy chaos of Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park.

The restaurant is a light, welcoming venue with fresh, contemporary interiors. Around the walls are wooden shelves laden with baked delicacies and diners may also take a moment to appreciate the original blue floor tiles – a remnant from the restaurant’s previous incarnation as a Halal Butcher. Common Ground also have a beautiful garden festooned with fairy lights. This is where we sat for our Friday night supper.

The new menu

The new menu Common Ground launched in Spring focusses on plant-based and vegetarian small plates, cocktails and low intervention wines. As a meat- and fish-free restaurant, the Common Ground team are committed to sustainable food and choosing seasonal ingredients wherever possible. The menu is a collaboration between the owner (Lucy Jones), Emma Duggan (previously Head Chef under Angela Hartnett and Gordon Ramsay), and Common Ground’s own chefs. The small and large plates on the new menu aim to delight the senses often balancing cuisines from opposite sides of the globe with locally sourced seasonal ingredients.

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To drink we opted for a Negroni (£10) made with hibiscus-infused East London gin, Vermouth, and Campari, and a Blood Orange Gin & Tonic (£9) made with East London gin, fresh blood orange juice, and Fever Tree light tonic – a lower calorie option is always appreciated 🙂 Both drinks we were well blended and balanced.

Common Ground cafe London - cocktails

We shared a a combination of small plates and one large plate without taking too much consideration for particular courses, just choosing what made us happy. Our choices included:

  • Burrata with honey-charred akkedineh (loquat) (£9) served with wild garlic pesto, Aleppo pepper chilli oil, and toasted seeds. The loquat is sometimes referred to as a Japanese plum and similar to an apricot. The sweet fruit balanced with creamy burrata and a the slight hit of heat from the Aleppo pepper oil was a delicious combination.
  • King oyster scallops (£7.5) with cauliflower purée, monks beard, hazelnut, capers and lemon dressing. Note, this is actually mushroom stalks served in the style of scallops, so definitely a vegetarian dish, but a texture that will be unfamiliar to many. Texture aside, the chefs have created a curious combination of flavours, a dish to try for those wanting to try something unfamiliar and new.
  • Japanese sesame arancini (£6) served with a shiso-leaf emulsion and wasabi. Contrasting with the mushroom scallops above, the familiarity of deep-fried arancini was light with gentle flavours.
  • Confit hispi cabbage with cashew nut ricotta, garlic scapes and walnut dressing (£11) – this cabbage was presented in perhaps the most creative way of all the dishes we tried, laid out almost like a dover sole would be. Each mouthful of cabbage, ricotta and the dressing together was pleasantly moreish.
  • A side of Swiss chard and potato gratin (£5). This is an essential side for anyone who wants the comfort of a traditional, creamy and crunchy carb.

For dessert the Salted tahini pan cotta (£5.50) is our favourite, served with sesame brittle and a pistachio crumb. We also tried the particularly savoury option for those who don’t have a sweet tooth: goat’s cheesecake (£7) served with red wine marmalade, pickled blackberry, olive oil and seeded crackers.

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We were greeted immediately and given a choice of sitting indoors or outdoors – on a warm early summer evening, we of course opted for the garden. Our only observation on service was that it was rather slow despite the venue not being completely full – there seemed to be an exceptionally long wait to take our orders. But once we had, our dishes began arriving relatively promptly. Staff were all friendly.

Overall thoughts

Common Ground is in a somewhat unlikely location – a calm oasis in what is rather chaotic area, close to Finsbury Park station. So for those looking for somewhere quiet to relax and catch-up, or for vegetarian or plant-focussed food, Common Ground ticks all the boxes. We were pleasantly surprised by the creativity on the menu that genuinely did delight from most of the plates we tried. Menu items are very reasonably priced, our meal, which was more than enough for 2 people would cost £35 per person plus service.

Our only foible was with the wait on servers to take our order, which we hope is an easy fix and can be tightened up.

Common Ground is located at 49 Stroud Green Road, London, N4 3EF

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About Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.