Common Grounds Cafe and Bakery is a newly opened cafe located in the middle of town on the road leading to Senglao DVD between Inter City Hotel and La Gondola. I visited it in the morning last week and even then it was attracting quite a few customers, mainly tourists, but also one expat mother who let her kids loose on the indoor playground.
A word that came to mind upon my first impression of the place was ‘jomesque’: the cafe bears a huge resemblance to the original and still dominant Lao cafe chain. Whether the owners are aware or not I don’t know, but Common Grounds maintains very much the same atmosphere. There’s the chalkboard menus surrounded by small-square mosaic tiles, the earthy wall tones and bright windows as well as jazzy mood music. All this gives off big-time de ja vu, but I guess it works in their favour!
Never judge a book by its cover, of course, and always judge a cafe by its coffee. In the case of common grounds I have to say the coffee was certainly palatable and with a medium body, but slightly bitter flavour.
J&C readers recently voted Phimphone and Joma as the best cups in town, but Common Grounds does beat those two in price. I tried a cinnamon scone and also a cupcake with my coffee, which were reasonable. To be fair I didn’t try any sandwiches so I ask readers to leave their comments.
The atmosphere is nice, the staff are friendly and the menu is fairly extensive: all pluses. There’s also free wi-fi. The well-constructed children’s playground will be a hit with Vientiane mums and dads, however the lack of nearby parking could be an issue. Whilst it’s nice to have an alternative to the big names (and great to have a place you can go for some much-needed anonymity), for the moment Joma and Phimphone appear to remain the undisputed rulers of Vientiane’s coffee kingdom.