A run of the mill wine bar located close to Holborn tube. This branch of All Bar One is hardly inspiring but it does the job.
This All Bar One is found a gentle five-minute stroll away from Holborn tube station, on the busy Kingsway Road. As with a lot of chain bars, All Bar One venues tend be built on the same formula, no matter where they’re located - Kingsway is no different.
There are high tables with stools, wooden floorboards and leather chairs, the bar is backed by shelves of wine with the obligatory library-style ladder. It’s a matter of taste with All Bar One but if you’re after a really cutting edge venue, this place isn’t it. That said, it’s clean and inoffensive and you know what you’re getting when you step through its doors.
Kingsway is smaller then many All Bar One venues, with the bar taking up a small area on the right side of the space and the seating wrapping almost all the way around it. There is plenty of seating but it does get busy at 5.30, so grabbing a table may prove tricky.
This All Bar One is bustling; it’s full of people who work locally unwinding, sometimes noisily, after hours. Whether it’s colleagues or friends meeting up for a catch up, everyone seems to be having a good time - they’ve come to All Bar One because they know what to expect.
The bar staff are busy but attentive and it’s surprisingly easy to get served in that crucial five minute window of rocking up to the bar. This extends to the food, where table service comes into play - the eyes of the staff are easy to catch if you’re in need of something and they’re always helpful without being invasive. The general ambience of this place is a stereotypical wine bar - it’s busy and noisy and everyone’s kicking back. There are no trendy try-hards; it’s a friendly place, if a little generic.
The food here is something you’d come to expect if you’re a seasoned wine bar customer: tapas, ‘luxury’ burgers, sandwiches, sausage and mash. It’s not pretentious or cutting edge, but it does the job.
Of particular note are the Atlantic scallops, which are sweet and soft and have a delicious grilled taste. They are mercifully well-cooked - no dreaded chewiness here. Whilst they’re on the more expensive side of the tapas menu (around £6), you get a good amount of plump scallops for your money. Also good are the tiger prawn skewers, which are chargrilled and come with a lemon and garlic dressing. The lemon and garlic is a little over-powered by the chargrilled element, but the prawns themselves are sweet and succulent, although they’re not the largest of prawns you’ll ever sample.
From the ‘big plates’ section of the menu, steak frite is the obvious choice for all meat lovers. The steak (sirloin) is tasty, if a little tough in places. It comes with a delicious parsley and horseradish butter, although the parsley element is somewhat lost in the buttery horseradish. The horseradish itself isn’t painfully strong, but for those who crave a punchy horseradish flavour it might be a little lacklustre. The steak comes with a generous serving of proper shoestring fries, which are crunchy and delicious.
Another option for a larger meal is chicken wrapped in pancetta, which comes with a green pesto dressing, fries and roasted tomatoes. This dish is a little disappointing - the flavours are nothing special and the smoky flavour of the pancetta really doesn’t come through, even though it’s only battling the chicken. The green pesto is fine, but perhaps a little on the mean side, and the roasted tomatoes are depressing - they are no better than you’d get with a fry up at a greasy spoon. Both of these main dishes are around £9, which is a little steep considering the venue and quality.
There isn’t a lot of choice for pudding, and those with a sweet tooth are probably best averting their eyes - it won’t pass muster with them. The chocolate fondant cake melts in the middle, but isn’t rich or chocolatey enough to really impress. It comes with clotted cream, which is also pretty disappointing. The bite size waffles, again, are passable but no better than that - they come with a decent maple syrup though, which is perhaps the highlight of the overlooked dessert menu. Both are £3.90 and might make you feel a little short-changed.
There is plenty to choose from off the wine menu with about a dozen bottles of red and white. The Organic Sauvignon Blanc is a disappointment, however, with an acidic bite and no hint of the delicious citrus burst that one normally expects from a Sauvignon Blanc. For around £17, you might expect better.
There are cheaper whites (on average around £3.50 for a large glass) including Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios. If you’re more of a beer drinker, there’s a fine selection of draught here, including Becks Vier, Amstel, Staropramen, London Pride and Heineken. The bottled beer includes the more unusual Leffe Blonde, Budvar Dark and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The Last Word
This bar isn’t cutting edge, and it won’t set your heart on fire. However, if you want an after-work drink in a friendly place then this fits the bill.