The huge and varied menus offered by a lot of food pubs these days can often bewilder, with choice turning into a burden for the indecisive customer.
Which is why the new menu at The Common Room in Devonshire Street, which focuses on chicken, burgers and vegan alternatives, is refreshing to see.
The pub, part of the True North Brew Co stable, still has an American theme but has narrowed its menu with the aim of creating tasty comfort food that sells well.
Classic fried chicken is the main dish on offer, either in a bun or on its own, with a variety of sauces including Japanese katsu and Korean ssam alongside the more traditional barbecue accompaniments.
There are also three beefburger options, and for those who don’t eat meat there is the ‘Mockin’ Bird’ made of seitan, a meat alternative produced from wheat.
And the menu offers several ‘dirty fries’ – plates of chips loaded with various toppings and sauces.
Actually what our guests really wanted was comfort foodSimeon Briggs
General manager Simeon Briggs said the change to chicken was because barbecue food had ‘had its time’.
“Actually what our guests really wanted was comfort food,” he said.
“That’s what we were selling a lot of.”
Narrowing the menu and removing many of the options that didn’t sell well was the start of the process. Simeon and his team then looked at what was popular and tried to put a new twist on it.
“We wanted to focus on doing a few things really well. We wanted to make sure we had the best fries possible.
“We looked at how others did theirs and wanted to get them to the same standard. Get burgers the best they could be at a price range our customers could take on.”
Simeon hopes to make The Common Room part of a ‘fried chicken revolution’ he believes is sweeping the country. But he is also conscious of vegetarian and vegan customers.
“I’ve been here for two years – being barbecue as we were before, we had a lot of people saying where were the vegetarian options?
“Some of the staff are vegetarian and so is my wife. They were always limited with what they could choose.
“I was really interested in seitan. I wanted something with the properties of meat – not falafel or a bean burger.
“Something that makes a burger work in terms of having consistency and texture.
“Twelve of the 30 items can be done as vegan options.”
We had hoped to try the seitan but perhaps were unwise to visit on a quiet Monday lunchtime after Tramlines – The Common Room had enjoyed huge demand over the weekend so had run out of that and several of the side dishes.
Instead I opted for the CBA burger – chicken, bacon and avocado – with halloumi cheese. My friend went for chicken thighs ‘Dirty South’ style, with greens and gravy, both served with fries.
Rounding out the feast were fried pickles, ‘cauliflower wings’ and extra fries with katsu sauce.
The chicken was great – moist and with plenty of seasoning in the batter. My burger was a delicious monster, while the gravy that came with my friend’s main was as good as you’d find in the best Sheffield chippy.
The cauliflower wings were a nice surprise, with the deep-frying process leaving them slightly mushy and completely satisfying.
The pickles were a little on the sweet side for me, but well cooked – just leave them to cool down for a second before you bite into them.
And while we could be accused of having eyes bigger than our bellies, we didn’t leave much behind on our plates.
Washed down with a ‘One For The Road’ non-alcoholic espresso cocktail, this was a good lunch for a slightly chilly day. The new menu has been on sale for a few weeks now, and seems to be going down well with Common Room regulars. And if the Tramlines weekend is anything to go by, the vegetarian and vegan options are already a hit.
Simeon said: “The general response has been really good – especially from vegans. They are going crazy for it.”
We spent £40 on our feast, which was enough food for at least three, but for those on a budget there are several £6 mains served Monday to Friday from 11am to 3pm.
The abundance of television screens showing sport may not be to everyone’s taste, but the new menu is well worth a try.
The Common Room, Devonshire Street
Tel: 0114 2808221