* Prices may differ from that shown
All Bar One are a chain of bars which have been around since 1994. The bars are located all over the UK including in Glasgow, Leeds, York, Manchester, Liverpool and lots of bars in London. A map of all locations can be found on their website.
On a trip to London before Christmas I visited two of these bars, with completely different experiences in each.
The first bar I visited was Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, where 8 of us went for food and drinks. We had booked a table for 8pm. When we arrived they said they didn't realise they had this booking and went to check and then panic stations. At first they were going to put us on 4 tables of 2 but instead asked us to wait while they sorted it. By sorting it they meant rush some other diners out of their tables and push some together.
While we waited, we stood at the crowded bar, one of the group ended up with a plate of chips spilled down her back because there was just no room for the waiters to get through as the bar area was very busy and the bar so close to the tables, some of the tables had people eating, other were just drinkers and as there was 3 split levels to the bar I thought maybe the top area could be designated to food only up until 9pm or something.
When we were seated, drink orders were taken and we were given menus. We couldn't see the menus as it was so dark in the corner we were sat in. We had to get out phones to try and get some light to see. The drinks took a while to come but you'd get over that as it was extremely busy. They got a couple of drink orders wrong bringing pints instead of halfs but by then we had a feeling we'd be needing pints so we shut up and drank them!
The menu looked a decent size at first, but then we realised that some pages were only for breakfast, others only for lunch, desserts or drinks. Which didn't leave a huge choice but enough for a bar.
There are some tapas and sharing platters on the menu but as there were quite a few of us who probably wouldn't be able to decide we decided to go for a main course each.
Most people chose steaks or burgers, I decided to go for fish and chips. Their selection of burgers is something a bit different with Beef and camembert, Lamb and mint, crab and lobster and chicken fillet a few of the options. The burgers cost around £10 and the steaks £15 plus sides.
The fish and chips cost £9.75. Other choices were curry, risotto and a few more. Mains are between
After the orders were taken, the waiter returned from the kitchen with menus and said they had no steaks, and no beef burgers. Which meant 6 out of the 8 had to choose again. A couple went for lamb and mint burgers and others chose chicken.
It was a bit disappointing that they didn't know of the lack of cow before handing out the menus the first time as it was a real let down.
Around an hour and a half after arriving (now on second pints) later and the food arrived, in dribs and drabs. Two of us didn't get our meals until 10 minutes after the first meal came out and the waiter seemed really annoyed when my aunt asked if he'd forgotten about us.
The presentation of the food was good. The fries came in a cute paper line metal bucket on the plate and there were plenty of them. The burgers were large and hand made. The side salads were crisp and fresh. My fish was larger than expected, in tempura batter which was beautiful and not too crispy, greasy or soggy, it was just perfect. There was also a small dish of tartare sauce and another of mushy peas (there were less mushy peas than tartare sauce though). I tasted my mums lamb and mint burger which I had to agree with her was very bland. My fish and chips were very nice but I didn't get to finish them as the waiter cleared my plate from the table when I was mid mouthful and I was left with my knife and fork in my hands nearly choking on my mouthful.
He then cleared the rest away and asked if we wanted desserts. Considering it was now around 10pm and it was so busy and noisy that none of us could talk over the music we decided not to bother and just asked for the bill.
The waiter returned with come little cards asking us to log onto a website and vote for his name. I have no idea what this was about as I couldn't hear him over the racket but if it was a best waiter competition he would be the last person I would vote for.
The bill took another 20 minutes to arrive and it was totally wrong, he had forgotten a whole round of drinks and the drinks that were on there were the wrong ones but he wasn't listening so we just paid it and left.
This was not a nice experience at all, the toilets were filthy and the floor was soaking and covered in toilet roll. I think that this branch should be only a bar in the evenings if they can't have a seperate seating area for food and I wouldn't recommend it for an evening meal as it is a dark, loud bar and not a restaurant.
They had a large outdoor seating area which I'm sure is lovely in the summer but not for winter. As my fish and chips were very nice I would maybe try it again for lunch but not at night again.
The second branch I visited was the following morning, near to the London Eye. My aunt and I were looking for somewhere to go for a coffee while the rest of the group were on the London Eye. This was the first place we came to so we went in and sat down and it wasn't until we saw the menus that we realised it was All Bar One. This branch was empty, immaculately clean and the staff were pleasant. We only had coffees but they were nice and it was warm inside.
I have also visited the branch in York for a drink. As a bar it was pretty good, it's modern with good music and plenty of people but not somewhere I would stay for more than one drink.
For the reasons mentioned above, I am going to give it 3 start. My meal was lovely, others weren't. Service was poor in one branch, good in another. Same applies for cleanliness. Overall I think it all depends on which branch you are visiting and at what time of day.
All Bar One is a chain of bars where you can also get something decent to eat as well. The venues offer a full array of beverages from beers and wines to cocktails and champagne. And whilst you are imbibing your beverage of choice, All Bar One can also offer you a full selection of snacks, sharing platters or a full sit-down blowout.
After a couple of hours of shopping at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth we were ready for a sit down for some much needed refreshment. All Bar One have one of the best units at Gunwharf Quays - a huge glass fronted building with curved picture windows overlooking Portsmouth Harbour. It's a fantastic venue both summer and winter as the views are spectacular. Added to which there is a mass of outdoor seating, which is a lovely spot on a sunny day.
~*~ ALL IN ONE ~*~
All Bar One are a great venue to meet your friends for a drink, your mum for lunch or your colleagues for a works get-together. All Bar One seem to cater for every sort of client, with the exception of children. I understand that All Bar One used to exercise a strict 21+ age policy on their venues, but this seems to be relaxed at lunchtimes. Whilst the venues are not particularly child friendly in that there is neither a special kiddies menu nor any high chairs on offer, they do allow mums with pushchairs into the dining area of the place at lunchtime. I rather suspect that the 21+ policy is more strictly adhered to of an evening, when the serious drinking starts.
All Bar One at Gunwharf Quays is truly massive. The bar area is set to the back of the room and the wall is inlaid with simply hundreds of different bottles of wine. Surrounding the bar is an array of different seating - individual tables, high bar stools and matching tables, as well as banquette seating. There's seating for a quietish table for two, or larger tables for any group settling in for a hard night's drinking. To the front of the room are lots of solid wooden tables where you can eat. These are set around large glass-fronted picture windows overlooking Portsmouth Harbour. The room is curved in an arc shape and with the expanse of glass overlooking the water it's not dissimilar to being on the prow of an ocean liner. To the end of the venue is an open fronted kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. All Bar One is a rather large open plan room with very high ceilings, so I would imagine that the noise levels would be incredibly high when the place is full.
When we arrived it was towards the end of the lunch period at around 2pm, and things were definitely winding down a notch. Although there were still plenty of diners finishing up their lunch, most of the drinkers had either gone back to work or decided to hit the shops. We were greeted and told to find a table that suited us, and then someone would be along to take our order. As the place was quietish, we had no trouble finding a table and chose one in the window overlooking the harbour. Each table contains a wooden box which houses not just the food menu, but the rather extensive drinks list too. The food menu is a slim cardboard booklet...whereas the drinks menu runs to many more pages and is best described as a small A5 sized booklet. From this we correctly surmised that most clientele go there to drink rather than eat :o) No matter, it was gone lunchtime, we were hungry and the food looked good and very reasonably priced. We might not have been in the market for a bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut at £60 a pop, but we knew we could make short work of their burgers. And to be fair to the staff at All Bar One, we appeared to be just as welcome as cheapskate dinners as we would have been if we'd ordered 12 Mojitos each.
~*~ ONE ON ONE ~*~
As we suspected from the size of the two menus on our table, food is definitely not the main event at All Bar One. It's designed to compliment the main event - drinking. However, I must say that the food on offer does cater for all tastes. It ranges from snacks, sharing plates or individual small plates / tapas (no doubt aimed to mop up an excess of alcohol) right through to steak, chips and the full works. There's enough choice on their menu to offer you either a quick bite or a full three course sit down dinner. All Bar One also do a rather extensive breakfast menu too - worth noting if you're an early riser or like to fuel up for some serious shopping.
As with some many venues nowadays, All Bar One offer a good range of tapas - called "Small Plates" on their menu. You can choose from 3 dishes for £15, 5 dishes for £24 or 7 for £33. I must say these would be ideal if you're in a large group as the selection offers something for everyone. To give you an idea of the choices, the plates on offer range from Mini Salmon Fishcakes and Calamari through to Hummus with Flatbread and Tomato & Guacamole Bruschetta to name but a few. All in all there are 12 different "Small Plates" on offer, with the vegetarian options clearly flagged on the menu. There is also a choice of two "Sharing Boards" at £9.95 each - one being a veritable meat feast of cold meats and cheeses and the other a vegetarian selection of cheeses, olives, breads and marinated vegetables.
If your appetite is bigger but you just want a quick lunch, All Bar One offer several lunch dishes starting from £6, as well as daily seasonal specials, called "Highlights" at All Bar One. You can choose from things like Bubble and Squeak (free range fried eggs, sautéed baby spinach and tomato salsa) or a Steak Sandwich (served in a ciabatta with watercress, caramelised onions and fries) or a Crispy Duck Salad (tossed with egg noodles, sesame seeds and hoisin sauce). I was rather tempted by the Fish Finger Wrap (hand crumbled cod in a soft tortilla with salad, tartare sauce and fries), but decided to stick to a choice from the £5 menu instead.
Main courses are described as "Main Plates" at All Bar One and are divided up into grill dishes, salads, pastas/risottos and burgers. The Grill selection offers steaks from a rather reasonably priced £9.95, Gammon and Eggs, Grilled Salmon or Pork Chops. The salad selection is priced at around the £8 to £9 and features a rather tasty sounding Salmon and King Prawn Salad (with mango, sesame sees and red pepper dressing). There's a good selection of Burgers, again at around the £7 to £8 mark. Other dishes are things like Lamb Shanks, Sausage and Mash and Fish & Chips. It's all your average pub grub granted, but brought bang up to date with a 21st century twist by adding flavoured gravy, crème fraiche and the odd coulis.
~*~ HOLE IN ONE ~*~
We entered All Bar One clutching some downloaded vouchers from www.moneysavingexpert.com, so we had a good idea what we wanted to eat before we saw the menu. However, that didn't stop us having a good look over what was on offer, and looking over the plates of fellow diners to see what the food looked like and how generous the portion sizes were. In the end we decided to stick to our vouchers as this gave us a main course for a fiver. All the dishes on the special £5 offer were on the main menu anyhow, so we certainly didn't feel like second class citizens by opting for the "cheapie deal" at All Bar One.
The choice of dishes for £5 range from Handmade Beef and Coriander Burger, Handmade Mint and Coriander Lamb Burger, Seasonal Vegetable Tart, Gammon and Eggs, Cumberland Sausage and Mash, Chicken Salad or Veggie Stack Burger - thus plenty of choice for the meat-eater or vegetarian...but possibly a little lacking if you prefer fishy dishes.
My partner is currently on the Atkins Diet (no carbohydrates for him), so he decided he'd go for the Handmade Beef and Coriander Burger. He planned to ask if he could forgo the bun and the fries it came served with and replace them with a salad instead. However, whilst perusing the menu I noticed that All Bar One offer a Handmade Carb Free Burger (served with beef tomato, baby leaf salad and tomato salsa) for £5.95. He decided to go for that option instead as it was only 95p more than the special deal. However, the waitress very kindly offered to speak to the manager and ask if he could have the Carb Free Burger under the special deal. This offer was made without our asking so we were rather impressed with her initiative...especially when the manager agreed to it. I plumped for the Handmade Mint and Coriander Lamb Burger which was served with Fries and Tzatziki.
We also ordered a large bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water to share between us (£3.30) and this was served almost immediately with a couple of glasses loaded up with ice cubes and fresh lemon slices. We had a short ten minute wait between ordering our food and its arrival, which gave us a chance to have a good glance around the venue.
My Lamb Burger looked very tasty indeed, and came served with a goodly portion of skinny shoestring French Fries, which pleased me no end. I'm not a huge fan of fat chunky chips and like mine skinny and crispy. The Tzatziki dip served with the burger was nicely sharp with the contrasting flavours of yoghurt, cucumber and a hint of mint. The burger bun was rather large and rather tasteless as burger buns so often are - it was rather pappy white bread with no discernible taste to it. I think ciabatta bread would have worked better with it. However, the lamb burger inside more than made up for the disappointment of the bun. It was a lovely large portion of minced lamb delicately flavoured with mint and coriander and it was extremely tasty. The minced lamb crumbled as I cut into it, and was lovely and moist with plenty of meat juices left intact. There's nothing worse than a rubbery, dry burger and this was miles away from that particular crime against catering.
My partner also enjoyed his Carb Free meal, which was a large portion of minced beef and coriander moulded into a handmade burger. This was slightly more crumbly than my Lamb Burger but that was probably because a Carb Free Burger could only be bound with egg and no bread crumbs could be used. He pronounced his burger as most tasty - lovely tender meat and extremely moist. He tried a little bit of my lamb burger but said the beef one was much nicer. He also enjoyed a large mound of salad with his burger - mixed lettuce leaves, tomato, cucumber and a smidgeon of beetroot.
We both really enjoyed our burgers, and thought they were excellent value for money being freshly cooked and clearly made with superior cuts of meat. I was rather keen on finishing my meal off with a dessert, but time was running out on our car parking ticket, so we had to go. However, next time I would definitely make time for a pudding. Choices include Coconut Panacotta, Chocolate Brownie or Lime and Lemongrass Cheesecake (to name but a few), with prices at the £4-£5 mark. The bill for two lunches and a bottle of water came to £13.30, which we thought was rather good value considering the quality of the food and the generosity of portions.
~*~ RAISING ONE'S BAR ~*~
Obviously the main event at All Bar One is the drinks menu, and you'll really be spoiled for choice. We felt a little bit silly asking for a bottle of sparkling mineral water when there was so much more on offer - some of which sounded rather interesting and slightly exotic.
The drinks at All Bar One aren't particularly cheap, but then again you wouldn't really expect all city centre bars to offer cut price drinks - that's what Wetherspoons is for :o) The All Bar One drinks menu is geared towards the sophisticated lady who lunches, the city centre trader or the young free and single group who've just been paid.
The drinks menu is rather extensive but clearly set out so that you can head for the correct section depending on your preference for wine, champagne, beer, soft drinks or cocktails. The wines and champagnes are broken down into the red, white or rosé choices you'd expect to find on a menu, but All Bar One have taken this a stage further by categorising their range into price and quality by putting them under the headings of Good, Great or Best. The Good selection are described as easy drinking, good value classics. The Great consist of more unusual or complex flavoured wines and champagnes. Finally we come to the Best selection - which is the pricier end of the spectrum. This is home to your vintage champagnes or the more unusual non-vintage marques like Ruinart. You'll also find the pricier end of the wine scale with classics such as Chablis, Sancerre, St Emilion or Châteauneuf du Pape. There is also a Limited Edition selection to each category and they're as eye-wateringly expensive as the Best selection on the drinks card. The choice of wines and champagne is boundless and there is something for everyone there. Some are served by the glass (from £3.60) and many by the bottle (from £12.95 up to £120.00 for vintage Dom Pérignon).
Beers wise there is a more limited selection, but nonetheless extensive compared to many bars. There are bottled beers and lagers aplenty from all around the world. There are also draught lagers, as well as draught cider and Sharps Doom Bar bitter for real ale lovers.
The Cocktails selection looked particularly interesting with lots of all time favourite classics such as a Cosmopolitan, a Daiquiri or a Bloody Mary as well as more unusual choices - anyone for a Frisky Bison? Cocktails start at £3.95 per glass. Obviously I'm not going to list the entire range of beverages here, but a full list can be viewed at http://www.allbarone.co.uk/pdf/drinks_me​nu.pdf if you're thinking of having a night out at any All Bar One.
~*~ ONE TO ONE ~*~
The service was friendly and efficient at All Bar One. The girl that served us was helpful and most thoughtful in sorting out the Carb Free meal for my partner at no extra cost - all without being prompted. That sort of service deserves recognition and we were rather impressed. I'd certainly go back to All Bar One again, but probably at lunchtime... or an early evening slot at a push. I rather fear that the place would become rather mobbed of an evening with loud and raucous drinkers, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. That wouldn't be my kind of scene at all, but one I probably would have loved maybe 25 years ago! The food we ate was extremely tasty, the portions ample and the price most reasonable.
Recommended with four stars from me.
~*~ IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE ~*~
There are 46 All Bar One outlets in the UK, the large majority of them in Central London. All Bar One is part of a chain owned and run by Mitchells and Butlers Plc - a huge catering company who operate around 2,000 outlets throughout the UK. Their portfolio of different brands includes mostly pubs or pub restaurants such as Toby Carveries, Harvester Inns, Browns, Vintage Inns, Crown Carveries, Ember Inns, Innkeeper's Lodge, O'Neills and others.
All Bar One
Telephone: 02392 838880
- This outlet has both indoor and outdoor seating
- Disabled access is very good
- Opening hours are Monday to Sunday 10am to 11pm (with an extended closing time of 12am on Friday and Saturday nights and an earlier Sunday closing time of 10.30pm)
- All major credit cards accepted
This review is of the Oxford branch.
If you like mood lighting, good service, and very cheap eating out on a saturday night then go to All Bar One in Oxford.
I had a voucher from studentbeans.com for £5 evening meals any day or night of the week here. The menu is limited but if your just looking for a burger, salad or fish and arent too fussy then you can have a very cheap night out here!
The decor is very stylish, big comfy wooden tables and benches, low lighting, good background music and still able to hear your fellow diners conversation. It was packed but we managed to get a good table and it didnt feel at all squished in.
There is table service in the restaurant but there was only one waitress and she was rushed off her feet so we just ordered at the bar. The drinks were slightly expensive but then it is Oxford after all.
I had the falafel and mushroom stack vegetarian option for £5 with the voucher. It was very tasty and came with chips and a tiny bit of salad. It was however massive and did fill me up alongside a nice shiraz. My friends both had the beef and coriander burger and were also equally full.
We decided to skip pudding as we saw some other tables with some mediocre looking small bits of cake. The waitress although super stressed was very friendly when she brought our food and cutlery.
We had a really nice start to our evening and even better with the voucher. The food is normall priced between £7.50 and £14 for a main course.
All Bar One is a bar chain across the UK, they are increasingly concentrating on food and I experienced the Bath branch one Sunday lunchtime. Although I would have thought it a peak time the bar wasn't full and there were quite a few free tables. As it is a bar there were no children, it has an Over 21s policy. Unlike most British bars it has waiter service as opposed to just going to the bar (although I saw some people going to the bar just for drinks orders) and the chap serving us was very helpful and obliging informing us of a few options on the menu that were unavailable, as well as explaining the specials. The décor is mainly heavy wooden tables and wooden chairs, some with padded seats. There were tables of various sizes and some window and wall tables had large sofas. We saw some people on their laptops, but I didn't notice any wi-fi signs. There are newspapers available to read on the premises.
Some tables had card menus but we just had a paper one from a tear off sheet. The menu is quite extensive for a bar and includes a number of tapas style dishes that you can share also offered as 'bundles' where you get a set selection for two, three or five people. The people at a nearby table ordered this and seemed to have a good variety of dishes. They also offer a range of sandwiches and salads, as well as larger meals that include steaks, sea bream, lamb shank and a number of vegetarian options. We both ordered burgers - my falafel, mushroom and hummus stack (with fries and tomato salsa) was £6.95 and my partner chose a chicken fillet burger in a coconut and tamarind dressing, with oriental 'slaw, also served with fries and salsa for £7.35. We ordered drinks first and they came promptly and then we ordered our food, which arrived about 8-10 minutes later. My falafel stack was presented like a burger, although I took the 'lid' off for ease of eating. The falafel was pleasantly textured, slightly crumbly but also fairly moist, which was nice as I often find them quite dry and it was served on top of two whole but stemmed mushrooms. I didn't notice much hummus, it seemed like there actually was mayonnaise on the bottom of the bun. The chicken fillet was considered to be slightly overcooked, and he would have preferred a little bit more dressing on it, as the flavours were a little bit too subtle. However the Oriental 'Slaw (Chinese cabbage, red onion, grated carrot and radish in a soya, chilli and ginger dressing) was pronounced as very nice. Both of us really liked the fries that came with them - proper sized chips as opposed to skinny fries. The tomato salsa was mainly a chunky tomato sauce and wasn't really a salsa at all - there was no onion or any herb or spice to give it a kick. Overall though we were pleased with our choices.
I don't normally eat many desserts, especially at lunchtime, but was really attracted by the chocolate fondant. My other half fancied the banoffee pie but that was off, so he consoled himself with a chocolate brownie. Both were served with a vanilla ice cream. Desserts came prompty and my fondant was prepared excellently with a lovely warm runny centre. It was extremely rich and I couldn't finish it, I thought the ice cream was nothing special though. The chocolate brownie was more like a slab of cake rather than a proper brownie.
We were very full and our bill of £29.45 seemed reasonable for two courses each and two alcoholic drinks. Some food choices would be more expensive obviously. The bar had a nice atmosphere and I would think this it would be a good place to meet and socialise with friends and have a bite to eat in an informal but pleasant environment. I would certainly consider eating at an All Bar One again if there was one nearby at the time and recommend a visit. Check their website for promotions and vouchers.
All Bar One is a nationwide chain of bars, I've visited a number of these including ones in London, Manchester and Oxford. I'm going to summarise my overall experiences in this review.
One thing you'll immediately notice about this place is it's well layed out and quite upmarket generally attracting a good crowd as a result. This is reflected in the drinks prices as they are slightly higher than average.
In terms of drinks, the selection available is vast. Along with your regular selection of wines, spirits, bottled & draught beer, there are also a selection of more specialist european beers & ales available. If you don't fancy an alcoholic beverage, there are also a selection of hot drinks available as well as non-alcholic cocktails and smoothies.
All Bar One also serves food throughout the day with a selection of main meals & light eats as well including tapas dishes. The food is decent but nothing to shout home about. I think it is abit overpriced for what you get in my opinion.
The bars do tend to play music but luckily it's in the background & not too loud so you can still have a conversation & be able to hear the other person.
All Bar Ones are upmarket bars with a good selection of food & drink, however be prepared to pay more than your average bar.
I have visited several All Bar Ones, mainly in London, including the Piccadilly, Cannon Street and Waterloo branches.
The appearance of the venues is stylish, streamlined and very European: tiled floors, high wooded tables and stools and walls lined with wine racks.
The ambience is relaxed, and the bars are filled with young professionals (be aware that the age limit for many is 21, not 18).
The selection (and price) of wines is what I find most impressive about All Bar One venues. Their selection of house wines is very reasonably priced (around £2.45 175ml glass or £9.95 750ml carafe). The menu itself is very easy to navigate and is split into four sections: House Wines; Easy Drinking; Wine & Food and All About Wine (wines with something extra). There is also a modestly priced selection of sparkling wines and champagne. And my friend and I were delighted to discover that you could sip on a peach bellini for just £3.45! I also like the fact that any wine is available by the glass, so you don't feel pressured into ordering a whole bottle.
For a chain, All Bar One has a very good choice of British and European (some classic, some unusual) ales and bitters on draught, as well as your usual bottled beers (and a few others - I'm always happy to see Innis & Gunn!). But beware, lager fans, there's no Carling or Stella here!
The food menu is what you'd come to expect from an upmarket chain: gourmet burgers, bangers & mash, steaks, skewers & salads. The food is slightly expensive, but good quality. Although you do find that the price of what you though would be a modestly priced pub lunch begins to escalate fairly quickly!
The tapas selection is very good (it's worth opting for a tapas 'bundle' to save pounds) although they're not really incredibly filling - better for a light lunch.
All in all, I find All Bar One's enjoyable venues to while away the hours. If you're looking for a quick lunch head elsewhere - the service can be slow and the prices are more than you might want to pay in your lunch hour - but it is the perfect place to enjoy a long lunch with friends.
There's quite a wide selection of places near my office where I can lunch, but All Bar One is one that is rarely visited. It's not because the food isn't good, it's not even because a lunchtime meal in there will take (what feels like) the whole afternoon - like most things in life, it's because of the £££ involved in going there. I'm basing my opinion on the Central Milton Keynes branch of ABO. The menu and wines etc will stay consistent throughout the chain, however, personal amenities such as service, cleanliness, toilets etc will be rated on this singular domain. OK, well, I've already mentioned that ABO is part of a chain. They're owned by Six Continents Retail, who also own among other things, The Harvester and Vintage Inns. The surprising thing with ABO is the relative newness of the company. They launched in 1994 with one branch in Sutton, Surrey and have in 2001 won an award for "The Retailers' Retailer of the Year Award for Best Concept" (whatever that may be). They've also opened a branch in Cologne, Germany and are planning on expanding across Europe. Anyway, enough about the boring stuff for now. First thing you notice in ABO are the tables, solid wood, pine if I'm Not mistaken, with huge stencilled numbers painted on them. The Accompanying chairs / benches wouldn't look out of place in any school. The bar is rather long with huge cubes displayed all up the wall behind it with the various types of wine available (with the prices displayed) As well as the odd leather sofa dotted about, the décor is both natural and modern at the same time. A very high ceiling gives the illusion of space, in spite of the tables being crowded fairly close together. The menu's are A4 paper in the style of old parcel wrapping paper. Everything on them is written in modern small capitals (I'm not talking Paris here people, you know what I mean). The m
enu is written in two columns on both sides of the paper and it's divided up into sections. The first column has; Sandwiches; Side Plates; Soup & Bread; Pudding Plates & Tea & Coffee. The second - Plates & Sharing Plates. With the whole of the second side being taken up with white and red wines (and some sparkling, if you're feeling flush - at £27.00 (bottle) for the cheapest, you'd have to be) If you don't happen to have a menu on your table, all of the items available are permanantly fixed to the walls on giant backboards, one of which will be easy to see from your seat. Sometimes, it's worth noting that there are more items on the blackboard than the menu (just in case your waitress omits to pointing this out to you) Well, the pricing of the food isn't outrageous, but for a quick sandwich and a small glass of wine at lunch, you're looking at spending probably around £8 - £10. The menu is very varied, with vegetarian options available all the way. What you see is really what you get with the menu. Sometimes these more trendy bars call chips things like potato julienne or such like from the menu examples below you'll see that everything is well labelled and there'll be no real surprises when things turn up at the table. Chargrilled Ham and Free Range Eggs with Fries Thai Green Chicken Curry with Egg Noodles Grilled Chicken Breast with Smoked Applewood Cheese and Spring Onions served in Ciabatta bread. See, there's nothing to fear as it's all in the title. There's things like salad, fishcakes, quesdillas, swordfish & steak on offer as well as good old bangers & mash and freshly made burgers too so a nice varied menu available! If you just fancy a nibble with your wine, there's not much chance of getting a packet of Smokey Bacon in here, you'll have to settle for Pistachios or Olives, each served in a water glass at a cost to you of about £3.50 for each. As for the wine, the wine here is of a good quality but does fall on The side of pricey. The cheapest being: (white) French Cap Roc Chardonnay @ £2.45 for 175ml glass, £3.45 for 250ml glass & £9.90 for a standard bottle (75cl) With the equivalent red a French Van de Pays Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon at the same price. The rest of the wine menu will cost you for a large glass up to £5.80 and excluding Champagne up to £35 a bottle, with the average bottle being around the £15-17 mark. There is an excellent selection, but based on our local store, the staff do not appear to be very knowledgeable about the wines and rarely can recommend anything. There's about a dozen bottles on offer of red and of white. It's a nice selection of both traditional and new world wines and a wonderful way to try something you may not have had before. There are various other drinks available, including, but not exclusively, draught lager, bottled drinks and soft drinks too. Food is always freshly cooked and delivered to the table. It is always of exceptional quality and the portions are nice and large (even large enough for a greedy Fishbulb) This, I feel though is where ABO is let down. Frequently, we have waited for probably between 10 - 30 minutes for someone to take an order from us, then again, another 20 minutes for the drinks. Then again, another long wait for the food. I can honestly say, that in 18 months of going to ABO fairly frequently, on not a single occasion have we managed to be in and out in an hour. This may sound like I'm splitting hairs, but when you're on a lunch break; you can't always take 2 hours! Although it would be nice huh? Once you have eaten it's also relatively tricky to get the attention of the staff, short of walking up to them and tapping them. I have noted though, that this is not exclusive to when the restaurant is busy. When the restaurant is empty it's equally difficult to get a memb
er of staff to the table, in fact, when it's emptier, it's quite a sport trying to find one. The toilets are always clean and well stocked with the necessities like paper, soap etc. It's very rare that you see tables with dirty glasses, plates etc on them. The staff always all look clean and tidy in their white shirts, white aprons & dark trousers. Also, I've never noticed any sticky floors, dirty windows or rubbish lying around either. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then ABO is too. As with most places, the busy periods are lunchtimes. (More notably Between 1 - 2 than 12 - 1) and immediately after work. Also, we tend to find that Monday through Wednesday lunch tends to be a quiet affair in ABO. There is no music played in ABO, but it can get a bit "droney" with the background hum of folks chatting. It's a pleasant place that isn't the cheapest of the cheap and I personally consider it a treat going there. It's certainly a place I would feel happy taking a business associate and it's not so formal I couldn?t relax with a nice glass of something after an afternoons shopping. At the moment, they are running a special offer in our local ABO, I assume is standard throughout the chain it's The Taste in Haste menu, which basically constitutes various items off of the menu in combinations for £5 each. Eg. Toasted Ham and Gruyere Cheese Pannino (warm baguette) served with a side order of salad or fries (saving of £1.45) so if you fancy visiting and it seems a bit too expensive compared to your usual M&S sandwich, now might be a good time to try it out - you may just like it. For a quick meal after work I cannot recommend anywhere else higher and as a treat for lunch every now and then (assuming you have the time) it is wonderful. If you do go to ABO, raise a glass to old Fishbulb while you're there or better still - invite me along ;o) (The price I've stated below
was for a lunch myself and a friend had last week, two sandwiches, a bowl of chips, two (large) glasses of wine and two coffees)
All bar one was one of the first places to function as a coffee shop,not so many years ago,where it was quite difficult to find a place to sit and relax on a Sunday afternoon. Since then nothing changed much: Quite friendly staff, reasonable prices and good quality on both drinks and food.Also a decent range on everything-a definate advantage against their competitors. However the competition is quite high and I'm not sure if they can compete with the others.I hope they will do...
All Bar One has two venues in the centre of Birmingham. A small one is situated in Newhall Street near the business quarter of the city and the other larger one is situated in Brindley Place. As far as city bars go, this one isn't bad. Not as pretentious as some but certainly more classy than your average place. All Bar One does quite a nice menu. Not cheap, not expensive, but quite a nice variety of food from fairly inexpensive sandwiches to more adventurous courses. One of the problems I have with this place is that it is very very difficult to get a table and you really need to book if you have any chance of getting a table (the only other option is to sit on very high stools at a bar-type thing which isn't particularly comfortable). The one in Brindley Place is bigger and therefore a bit less crowded, but the other one is very small and very narrow, making eating at anything other than a table in the separate "restaurant" bit quite unpleasant. The drinks are also quite expensive. For the first time in my life in this place, I ordered a round of drinks holding insufficent funds in my hand necessitating a semi-embarassing dig around for more money while the barman stared on. That said, while the drinks are expensive, the servings a quite generous.
All-Bar-One, or A.B.O. as it is affectionately known by its regular customers, is a bar solution out of an identi-kit. Or So It Seems. You may wonder what i mean by this comment, but if you had been to more than one ABO branch then you would understand. EVERY ABO branch is IDENTICAL in design. The only things that differ in fact are the layout and the staff. I first saw the company when it opened a bar just off the Fulham Road Cinema in London. but then i started noticing them all over London. When i bothered to head to university, and in that time I have often been to ABO. The bars in ABO are often very long which is good, although at busy times it can still be hard to find a spot to muscle in to order drinks. Otherwise, the bar space is good. They offer not only sizeable square and canteen style tables, emblazoned with huge Lintsec Army Font numbers and combined with ex-church and school chairs, but also huge double and treble seater sofas. Again these can be the first seats filled at peak hours. From the menu on the boards one can order a wide range of food from Club Sandwiches to Chilli Nachos and Ceasar Salad. Price-wise the food isnt too expensive but it isnt a cheap eat, however, in its favour I would say that the portions are respectable. Remember though that on certain days of the week and at certain times the kitchen may not necessarily be open. Drink prices are again fairly priced although i would say that glass sizes, if not ordering wine or beer tend to be bigger than in other chain bars, which means, with less ice, you are getting better value for money. But then again, in London, a round of drinks for 4 people can easily reach £8.00 to £10.00, even in ABO. ABO can be a great place to go and lounge about in when it is empty, and the young bar staff are always very friendly and talkative. But like all bars in business areas it fills to the brim at the end of the day 5/6pm with young office
and media types - at least around Soho in London. My overall opinion is that ABO is a great place with a wide variety of drinks and a good selection of food on the menu that is definitely worth a try if you are hungry.