All Bar One is a chain. Naturally, you want to hate it. It stands for the soulless side of the High Street. However, with affordable prices, pleasant surroundings and laid back dining, there’s nothing wrong with this one.
This branch of the popular chain is situated a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of St Christopher’s Place and busy Oxford Street. Tucked out of the way, it's a great option if you’re looking for somewhere to eat and drink that’s slightly less packed.
From the outside, it looks like a standard All Bar One - you've got the classic green and gold colouring and a small seating area on the pavement. Once inside, you'll notice it's slightly smaller than some of the other bars in the chain but there's still a decent amount of seating. You've got high and low wooden seats, large tables for groups and smaller tables for more intimate dining. You've also got a few defining features that characterise this chain – the All Bar One clock hanging next to the bar and wooden blackboards displaying the menu and wines they have to offer. The bar is huge showing off its extensive choice of wine.
All Bar One commonly attracts large groups of businessmen and women – especially on Friday and Saturday nights and weekday lunchtimes, so if you hate suited workers, stay well clear. However, saying this, shoppers and tourists are often attracted to the prices at this branch so you will find people like this popping in during the day. It can get quite busy in the evening, so it's not great if you want a quiet drink. The staff are friendly but not invasive – they'll get you something if you ask them to but won't bother you if you don't, which is quite refreshing.
Standardised chain menus often scream sub-standard dishes but this All Bar One is surprisingly good and there's a decent variety of large and small dishes. The selection includes tapas dishes, grilled skewers and salads and handmade burgers, as well as many main dishes.
The tapas dishes (priced £1.75-£4.95) come in well-sized portions and you don't have to order too many to fill you up. The hummus with olive oil and warm pitta (£3.50) is a simple yet delicious dish. Despite being served with olive oil, the hummus isn't too oily and has a suitable texture, which perfectly complements the soft, warm pitta that tears apart easily. A more adventurous dish is the pimientos del padron (£2.75), which consists of small, green, thumb-sized peppers lightly pan fried in sea salt. Whilst the salt pleasantly counteracts the sweetness of the peppers, they could do with throwing a few hotter peppers in the dish to spice it up. For meat fans, the pan fried chorizo with ciabatta (£3.95) is a good option - it's suitably lean for a tapas dish and not too spicy for those with a sensitive palate. If you're vegetarian, the organic goat's cheese bruschetta (£4.85) is an option. The cheese, while strong, is creamy and the red onion marmalade gently dilutes the tang without mixing too many flavours together.
If you're looking for something more substantial, you might be tempted to choose the steak frites (£9.95). While it might seem a reasonable price (the 6oz sirloin is served with parsley and horseradish butter and fries), the meat is a cheap cut and rather than being juicy and succulent, it’s too tough and quite fatty. That said, the skinny fries are good - nicely crispy, not too soggy and very moreish. For vegetarians, the grilled halloumi, red onion and aubergine stack (£6.95) is a great option. The portion is huge and you get great value for money. While the bun could be a bit more exciting than a processed burger bun, pulling apart the dish is very satisfying. The halloumi is suitably squeeky, not too salty and grilled just the right amount so it doesn't lose its texture. It's well complemented by the red onion, which is grilled so its sweet flavour is emphasised. The pesto dressing on the burger is subtle and not overpowering. It comes with the same standard skinny fries and tomato salsa that, whilst zesty and nice to spread over the burger, could do with being a little thicker in consistency.
Although the menu isn't big on desserts, the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream (£4.40) is a safe bet. It's quite dry on the outside but is warm and the centre of the dish isn't too sickly and melts nicely in your mouth.
All Bar One has a great choice of drinks. There are around 12 white wines on offer, 12 reds, four roses and a selection of Champagne and sparkling drinks priced from £5.95 for a glass of Moet and Chandon NV Brut to £99 for a bottle of Dom Perignon 2000 Vintage.
There are four house wines on offer and these start at just £2.45 for a small glass of Rossellini Pinot Grigio, Merlot Rose or Australian Shiraz. A great choice is the Sauvignon Blanc. The fruity, grassy flavour is easy to drink and perfectly complements the meat and fish dishes on the menu.
The selection of other drinks is equally good. There’s a huge selection of bottled beer and cider, which include favourites like Guinness, Heineken, Peroni and London Pride, as well as the more adventurous such as Kasteel Cru and Liefmans Kriek. These are priced at £2.50-£4. The bar also has a huge amount of spirits and long drinks such as the St Germain, consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, St Germain elderflower liqueur and soda, priced at £2.95 a glass.
The Last Word
A great option for fuss free, laid back food and a huge choice of drinks. Just don't expect amazing quality and you won’t be disappointed. Does what it says on the tin.