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
"Every" "Apart from" "and No-one else" (All Bar One!)
All Bar One
Member Name: Fishbulb
All Bar One
Date: 20/02/03, updated on 20/02/03 (452 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent food, Great selection of wines, Quality & Cleanliness
Disadvantages: Service is slower than trying to teach a tortoise to juggle, A bit pricey for day-to-day use, Can
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)