All Bar One is like a comfortable pair of ballet pumps - easy to slip into, you may not want to be seen enjoying them but you inevitably do. The Shad Thames branch of the ever popular chain is a great example of ABO getting it right
Shad Thames is a beautiful area of South London, located within trekking distance of London Bridge station. The clean streets and attractive modern builds nestled against the side of a lovely stretch of the Thames sells itself. It’s no wonder that the big chains have inundated this area.
All Bar One looks out across the Thames with stunning views of Tower Bridge, and it has an excellent outdoor area that comes with several large parasols to keep off the inevitable rain whilst the heaters stave off the cold. Attractive plants and a lengthy barrier line up to mark where their patch of outdoor seating ends and the street begins. The road is for pedestrians only so you won’t have your experience blighted by smog.
The bar itself appears large from the outside and the spacious interior doesn’t disappoint. The glass frontage allows in plenty of light during the day and affords good views of the river without having to brave the cold. The sprawling space is warming rather than vacant by the clever positioning of seating in the form of wooden tables, high stools, low chairs and sofas to create separate areas. The centrepoint is the large bar that dominates with – of course – gleaming bottles of wine neatly lined up everywhere you look. The ubiquitous blackboards displaying specials and food is present and the neutral colourscheme does little to push the boundaries. Luckily, the focal point of this bar is the view outside, which is so impressive you can forgive the cold chain bar styling.
Perhaps it’s the gently lapping river just outside, the cleanest streets in the capital or the – shock horror – fresh air, but this All Bar One doesn’t get that manic atmosphere during the after work rush that so blights its sibling branches. Instead, you can come here on a busy Friday night and chill out, take in the views and feel the worries of the working week melt away. A mixture of locals and office workers from the surrounding area descend on the bar and create an upbeat atmosphere. Suits and work clothes are on show everywhere you look and the staff are equally well quaffed in the usual ABO threads. The efficient service is evident whether the bar is busy or not, which helps keep the wait to a minimum. It’s a nice bar to visit if you want to feel like you’re getting out of the rat race whilst still being in a central location.
A typical All Bar One menu is on offer here with some reasonably priced, decent quality dishes on offer. Their world tapas is ideal to share with friends over a bottle of wine and range from £2.45-£5.35 a plate for dishes like hummus and pitta, tiger prawn skewers and meatballs. Their handmade burgers are as popular as ever and include five varieties priced at £7.95-£8.45 and include beef and lamb options. Alternatively, you can go for a skewer of salmon, chicken or beef with an accompaniment of your choice or a main meal like gammon steak or Cumberland sausages. You can happily eat here for under a tenner and leave feeling satisfied. Also keep an eye out for their regular money-saving deals.
All Bar One is nothing if not consistent in its drink selection and they do offer a great range of affordable, quality wine that’s to its credit. Bottles cost as little as £10 and whilst the ABO house Chardonnay isn’t exactly a wine connoisseurs delight, it’s good enough that it won’t leave you with an acidic bite that will set your teeth on edge. The wine list is also very easy to navigate and if it’s one thing this chain does well it’s not making wine an inaccessibly pretentious drinking experience. The menu is clearly divided into categories like bold and distinctive with each bottle well described and labelled to make your choice an easy one.
If you prefer the grain to the grape then the usual suspects are on draught, alongside a few of their own favourites: Birra Moretti and Paulaner - Italian and German offerings - are good choices, notable for their wheaty and crisp flavours respectively.
The Last Word
All Bar One may not win any awards for originality but the Shad Thames branch certainly stands its ground on the competitive London bar scene. The view alone makes it worth a visit.