If there were two things in this world that I wouldn’t dream of putting together, it’d be a sports bar and a traditional festive meal. However, this is exactly what The Common Room have done – creating quite an experience for anyone looking for something a bit different this Christmas.
First, let me explain a bit about The Common Room. I was not expecting this place to offer a festive meal, never mind a whole menu. It’s a very ‘burger-and-fries’ type of establishment due to the fact that it’s bombarded with pool tables and plastered with TV screens showing almost every sport imaginable. It’s a very laid-back place where I actually couldn’t have imagined anyone eating a proper meal.
But I was still excited. I wanted to see what this place could do with a Christmas menu.
We were seated in a secluded area at the far side of the restaurant, I’m guessing this is the typical ‘sit-down-meal’ eating area. The room was decorated with your standard festive ornaments – holly wreaths complete with red berries, Conifer cones were painted in a wintry fashion, and bunches of candles lit the room – it actually looked quite nice, I can’t lie. When we first sat down, we were presented with our Christmas crackers, something that I had actually completely forgotten about myself. We decided to pull our crackers straight away to release a shitty, neon pink, plastic paper clip and a shitty, micro sized, red dreidel type thing. And to me, nothing says Christmas like shitty Christmas cracker fillers.
After we had read our terrible jokes out to each other, we were asked if we were ready for our starter, which of course, we were.
For starters, we opted for the ‘Prawn Cocktail with Clamato dressing’ and the ‘Blue Cheese & Ham Tater Tots with pear chutney’. They came within a couple of minutes and were nice on the eye. My initial thoughts over the Tater Tots was that they would be too filling for a starter, I thought the cheese would overpower the pallet and that the ham would sit heavy. How wrong could I have been. There were no excess amounts of cheese, there was a good amount of ham was used, and they had been cooked to perfection. It was the perfect dish to get your taste buds ready for a meal. Highly recommendable. The Prawn Cocktail was good…but not to the same standard as the Tater Tots.
First of all, I don’t think Prawn Cocktail is the right word to describe the dish…I think Shrimp Cocktail would have been more fitting as the ‘prawns’ were close to microscopic. This could be my own fault for having high expectations, but whenever I’ve ordered (or seen) a Prawn Cocktail in the past it has been somewhat of a thing of beauty. However, this Prawn Cocktail was served in a bowl rather than a glass, did not feature any Marie Rose sauce (which, to be fair, was stated in the item description as it had been replaced with Clamato dressing) and just generally lacked any sort of excitement or decadence. Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted good – it just felt a bit lacklustre compared to what I was expecting. My advice? Go for the Blue Cheese & Ham Tater Tots – they’re great. A vegan option of ‘vegan pate, red pepper & butternut squash is also available.
For the main course, there are four options to choose from. ‘Beer Brined Turkey Crown’, ‘Slow Cooked Brisket’, ‘Cider Brined Pork Belly’, and ‘Sage & Caramelised Onion Roast Seitan’. We wanted to choose something slightly more untraditional, so we boycotted the turkey and went for the slow cooked brisket and the cider brined pork belly. All mains are served with roast potatoes, honey roast carrots & parsnips, sprouts, bacon, Yorkshire pudding and caramelised red onion gravy. The vegan option is served with roast potatoes, roast carrots & parsnips, shredded sprouts and caramelised red onion gravy.
First, the Cider Brined Pork Belly. Now, I’ve been wanting to try pork belly for a while – I mean, I’ve had it before, but never cooked for me by a chef – so I was intrigued to see how well they could perfect this dish. And it’s fair to say they did a damn good job. The meat was tender and juicy whilst the fat sat on top in a perfectly crispy form. It was exactly what I expected. If I’m being critical, I think the meat could have held more flavour but, all-in-all, there were no complaints to be made about this dish. The same could not be said about the brisket. Unfortunately for them, the only other time I’ve tried brisket before, it was cooked for me by a Jewish American lady – probably the most qualified type of person to cook this cut of meat. It was advertised as ‘slow cooked’ but it just didn’t seem slow cooked at all, unless it was slow cooked a while before and then banged in a microwave for 30 seconds. I was expecting it to literally melt in my mouth. I had such a high expectation from this dish that I think anything would have disappointed, but this does not hide away from the fact that this brisket just wasn’t cooked to perfection. It’s hard to put into words the description of the first time brisket hit my mouth, but it’s even harder to describe the words I felt when tasting this brisket for the first time. It felt sad. You had to work to chew it, it was lacking flavour and overall, it just felt a bit helpless. It’s a shame really, the veg tasted great as did the other accompaniments. But the star of show was having an off night. The supporting roles all would have won their Oscar nominations, but I doubt the leading role would have even been nominated in the first place.
For dessert, you have the choice of ‘Chocolate Orange Cheese Cake’, ‘Mint Chocolate Cookie Monster’, and ‘Vegan Chocolate & Coconut Tart’. We opted for the ‘Mint Chocolate Cookie Monster and the ‘Vegan Chocolate & Coconut Tart’. The desserts did their job. We were stuffed by this point and could barely manage to finish our final course, but the flavours were there. My slab of Mint Chocolate Cookie Monster was huge, so there is no question of small portion sizes here. The Vegan Chocolate & Coconut Tart came as more of a sliver, but due to the dark, rich taste of the dish – it filled you quickly. Our desserts also came with a serving of homemade Baileys vanilla ice-cream.
Overall, I have to recommend this place. Even though some of their dishes are not to the highest standard, they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. You have to remember what this place is…a sports bar. This also gives them the option to host pool party Christmas dinners – which they do – for just £20 pp. This includes a Christmas buffet, a bottle of beer and your own private host. If pool isn’t your thing then they also offer a Martini or Bourbon Masterclass for £20 pp or you can combine your choice of masterclass with the festive menu (as reviewed above) for just £35 pp. I actually think this would be a great place for a works do. We all know the stress of some people wanting food, some people wanting activities, and to combine the two, it often includes a walk to the other side of town. The Common Room changes all this. A sit down festive meal under the same roof as a load of pool tables, ping pong tables and TV’s. There is also giant Jenga and gaming consoles available for extra. It’s hard to see why a business wouldn’t host their Christmas party here, I certainly would.
The three-course festive menu is available for £18 or £21.50 with a drinks voucher that includes any draught ale, a medium glass of wine, a spirit & mixer to name a few.
For more information, please visit – https://www.common-room.co.uk/christmas
The Common Room can be found at 127 – 129 Devonshire Street, Sheffield, S3 7SB.
Phone – 0114 280 8222.
Open – 12pm – 12am daily (Friday – 1:30am close). Sunday – 11am – 11pm.