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All Bar One – chains get classy

Mancon takes a trip to the murky world of the branded chain bar, and is pleasantly surprised by what they find there…

Published on January 24th 2007.

All Bar One – chains get classy

I have to admit, when Mancon’s newest recruit Paul told me that he was taking me to review All Bar One, I did wonder why. Surely it’s just another chain bar selling club sandwiches, curly fries and chicken Caesar salads to local office workers in their lunch breaks.

All Bar One is such an established chain brand that I had never even thought to take the short journey from the office over to King Street to eat there – especially when we have the Slug and Lettuce on our doorstep if we’re in the market for a duck wrap.

Walking into All Bar One at lunchtime however, I was pleasantly surprised to find not a typical chain bar with one size fits all branded fittings and fixtures, but an elegant, light and airy environment not too unlike the colonial charm of the Browns chain of restaurants.

All Bar One’s menu is cleanly divided into three sections – World Tapas, Big Plates, and Sandwiches and Salads. Of course, there is the obligatory Chicken Caesar Salad, and Steak and Onion Sandwich. But the Big Plates sound interesting, and the World Tapas unusual.

The tapas can be ordered as individual plates, making an ideal starter (£4 each), or you can get three plates for £11 or six plates for £20. We greedily went for six plates between us, which enabled us to taste the full range of different styles.

There are five different styles of tapas – Latino, Eastern, Italiano, Western and Sweet, each with 3-5 choices underneath them.

We chose Chicken Quesadilla, which were served with red onion marmalade and sour cream, Tiger Prawn Skewers, deep fried in coconut and wasabi tempura, Flaked and Smoked Salmon on ciabatta with hollandaise sauce, Pork Dim Sum, Baked and Boxed Camembert with cranberry sauce and dipping ciabatta, and Beetroot Gravalax on a sour cream and mustard potato salad.

Each portion had enough pieces for two or three to share, the standout dishes for me being the beautifully melted Boxed Camembert, and the Tiger Prawn Skewers with their light and crispy tempura, though they could have been served with something a little more imaginative than the old faithful sweet chilli dipping sauce.

If we’d have been cleverer, we’d have substituted a savoury dish for a sweet, enabling us to enjoy a dessert tapas such as Belgian Waffles or Chocolate Brownie and Mashmallow Skewers. As it happened though, our eyes were bigger than our bellies and we were too full up on mains to squeeze in desserts. We’ll know for next time.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with All Bar One, and I was more than happy to have some of my preconceptions quashed. And the tapas concept is an excellent one – enabling you to eat as much, or as little as you choose at lunchtime or after work.

It’s a thumbs up from us – definitely a top place for a quick lunch or coffee in clean, comfortable and elegant surroundings. And not a duck wrap in sight.

Jayne Robinson

All Bar One
73-70 King Street
Tel. 0161 830 1810

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