The first thing that strikes us when we approach Common Ground early on a Saturday evening is the sound.
There is a lively chatter emanating from the sidewalk where half a dozen or so white-clothed tables are filled with people merrily nattering away as they embark on a degustation dinner.
It’s a cool night in May but the chill isn’t tempering the atmosphere as diners rug up with blankets and tuck into some hearty potato and leek soup – the first of five courses in Common Ground’s autumn degustation.
A casual but chic canteen on the corner of the Central Coast Highway and Elsiemer St, Common Ground opened its doors less than six months ago and has already built up a solid local following.
Offering fresh, wholesome food including rotisserie meat, colourful salads, healthy juices, Campos coffee and seasonal degustations, it’s the brainchild of local couple Nick and Kath Austen and the latest cool addition to the evolving Long Jetty strip.
The remaining four courses of the degustation include a pumpkin gnocchi with sage and radicchio, a barramundi bouillabaisse and then a mouth-watering slow roasted lamb with crunchy rosemary potato cubes.
For dessert, we have a choice of Chai spice brulee or a tasty autumn crumble with apple and pear.
Meals are served at decent intervals, on plain plates and shared among the table.
It’s no-frills dining, nothing fancy pants – just hearty, rustic food served without fanfare.
Common Ground’s charm lies in its modesty. It’s not showy or pretentious.
The cutlery doesn’t match, the tablecloths have a few wrinkles and we’re seated on an odd combination of chairs and stools.
The table is beautified simply with recycled jars holding classic white daisies.
It all sets the scene for relaxed, casual dining that results in an easy and enjoyable evening with friends.
Chatting with Kath after our meal, she explains the degustation is inspired by similar languid and rustic meals enjoyed in Italy.
We’re thrilled she’s brought this thoroughly enjoyable Italian-style of dining to the Coast.
At $50 per person, the Common Ground five-course degustation is incredibly good value.
The degustations will return with the warmer weather but in the meantime Common Ground will remain open from 6am six days a week, including for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
Coastal Chic Tip: Most of the tables are outside so rug up if you head to Common Ground on a cool evening and make sure you book as there are limited spots. BYO and blankets available.