The other day, my husband and I found ourselves on a nice long afternoon walk headed west on the Grand Union Canal. It was a beautiful weekend and the escape from the noises of the busy city and diesel-filled air was just what we needed. After about 5k, we stumbled upon a large restaurant and community center known as The Common. We decided it looked like a safe place to rehydrate and refuel with an afternoon snack.
An afternoon snack for my husband means a full meal, but I just literally wanted a snack. The menu looked like it had something for both of our needs, so we sat down at a table in the modern, industrial space that held a bar, cafe, dining area, and open kitchen all in one oversized room.
The decor was okay. It reminded me of the Home Goods version of Tom Dixon’s Dock Kitchen. A little budget, a little trying too hard. The booths in the dining area were very country to me in comparison to the globe lighting and open duct work. The full view of the kitchen was nice, and well decorated with copper lights, stainless appliances, and a nicely uniformed staff, but the scene was totally interrupted by the service station in front of the cooking area.
The service station was a sloppy mess. The small refrigerator that held oversized jugs of half-used condiments was completely tacky. Not only did it look like something you would see on the counter at the end of the night at a greasy spoon diner, but the staff never managed to consistently close the doors to the damn thing. This was a total violation of the health code, I’m sure, with an irregular temperature, but also a waste of electricity and the cause for me to get very cold.
The waitstaff’s oblivious attitude towards the fridge actually turned out to be the theme of my entire experience at The Common Restaurant. After we were seated, the server came to take our drink order and then never came back. We just asked for a bottle of water, which we were desperate for after our long walk, but you would have thought we asked for the world’s most involved cocktail or coffee drink with the time it took the bottle to get over to us. I eventually had to get up and ask a staff member for it myself. We immediately ordered once I had someone’s attention, out of fear of abandonment. I order the small portion of the BBQ ribs and my husband chose the Chicken & Chorizo Burger.
The food came out pretty quickly and looked pretty delicious sitting in front of me. However, I was very confused by my small little £5.00 rib portion’s massive size. It was a double rack with fries, which seemed to be the other option on the menu that I did not choose. I alerted the server right away and he told me that’s just how it comes and that it was not an error. Okay, I thought, setting a mental reminder for myself to check the bill at the end of the meal for accurate pricing. So we dug in.
My husband was working on his sandwich–which he thoroughly enjoyed–while I started in on the fries. Then, I heard a cook talking to the server about ribs (because we were basically seated on top of the kitchen) and how they had given me another table’s dish. After I had already pointed out the dish was wrong, the server now was back to take it away and replace my dish with a smaller fry-less portion–AFTER I HAD ALREADY STARTED EATING THE FRIES. In my opinion, this was way too late in the meal to take a dish back after they already had the customer point the error out to them that they chose to disregard. Not only did they take the meal away, tacky, but they proceeded to bring my same plate to the correct table AFTER I HAD ALREADY STARTED EATING THE FRIES. Completely inappropriate especially because I let the server know that I had already touched the food!
I was fine with the new dish put if front of me (though completely disgusted with the staff) as it was the size and item I had ordered originally. The ribs were okay. More of an Asian BBQ than the American BBQ I constantly crave, but the taste was fine. They could have slid off the bone a little easier, or at all, but what can you expect for £5.00.
When we were through with everything we waited and waited for service and apologies, which never seemed to come. We paid and left, and on our 5k walk home, discussed the problems with the service industry and standards in London. It was clear that The Common Restaurant was a Don’t and that the only saving grace for the place was that it was cheap. But is a cheap meal really worth it if the service is nonexistent and your meal may have already been in someone else’s mouth? Your call…
The Common Restaurant & Bar
Old Oak Lane
London NW10 6FF