With her Hank’s Oyster Bars humming in Dupont and Alexandria, Jamie Leeds has made the next logical step — she has a team of Samba-wearing waiters slinging upscale British pub fare to the residents and Box Store patrons of Columbia Heights. Leeds’ just-about-to-open CommonWealth Gastropub aims for a dark-wood pub feel, and the black and white British flag mural gives the space a bit of a gritty Clashy vibe. Still, the overall feel is much closer to a slick urban restaurant than a local watering hole — thanks to the Prince of Petworth for lending us one of his shots of the interior.
The extensive, UK-heavy beer list, including two casks and 11 rotating taps, is sure sure to make the bar a hit in a neighborhood that is can-heavy and draft-light, but is 14th & Irving ready for Frogs in a Puff? Before I stuck a fork in half the menu at their “Friends and Family’ dry run last night, I was a little skeptical.
I won’t pass any judgments based on a single meal at a soft opening, but the London Broil was served beatifully medium-rare, topped with a rich gravy and sitting on a bed of whipped mashed potatoes. At $19, it was the most expensive thing on the menu, save the butcher plate, a more than generous portion of a you-pick cured meat, hot meat and cheese for $23. Other winners were the succulent roast chicken for two and the paper-wrapped fish and crispy-not-mealy, steak fry “chips”. The full menu is close to legible here.
Like Leeds’ other outlets, the tables at CommonWealth come with carefully-chosen condiments: Sarson’s Malt Vinegar, Colman’s Mustard, a small bowl of salt and a chunky, mild, house-made relish.
The food is good, the restaurant is comfortable and, once they get some kegs, the beer list should attract local hopheads. The lingering question is one of accesibility. The menu features head-scratchers from “fuet” to “rarebit”, and most diners are going to need a British citizen, a PDA or a very patient waiter to understand the full range of options. I hope they do, because there aren’t nearly enough stuffed trotters in my world.