Newest Review: ... 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, immacul... more
All for One and One for all
All Bar One
Member Name: bollinger28
All Bar One
Date: 14/07/12, updated on 27/06/13 (209 review reads)
Advantages: Great meal deals to be had. Lovely harbour side views. Good service.
Disadvantages: Not child friendly. Liable to be rather noisy at peak times.
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
Summary: Good food at fairly reasonable prices with delightful waterside views over Portsmouth Harbour