THIS week, Little Oliver visited All Bar One, and discovered the tastes of the world in a thoroughly British institution.
All Bar One is one of those ubiquitous, familiar chain pubs that is like an old friend you feel you can pop in on anytime unannounced and all will be well.
But I never really thought about it as a destination dining venue until I popped into the Millennium Square branch in Leeds for a weekday lunch with a couple of pals.
I was surprised by the variety of the menu, which had a decent selection with a global flavour.
Some might call it confused in tone, but I liked the choice.
From Middle Eastern mezze to Oriental chicken, Spanish tapas to Italian cured beef, Mexican delicacies to Greek salads, there’s certainly something to suit every palate. There’s also a selection of burgers and traditional British fare like fish and chips.
And for dessert fans, options like the Churros (mini doughnuts) with chocolate sauce or the chocolate brownie are tempting offerings.
Lunch is served until 4pm every day and as well as the main menu, there’s a selection of wraps and sandwiches, again with an international flavour.
I went for the chicken quesadilla (£6.50).
This was sections of chargrilled tortilla filled with pulled chicken, black beans, peppers, lime and mozzarella. It was all served with pineapple and habanero ketchup.
The tortilla was crispy and the filling was just on the right side of spicy. The chicken pieces were a little rubbery and I thought they skimped a little on the filling. The wrap was slightly over-grilled but overall this was a satisfactory light bite. I especially loved my tangy side salad of plump pearl barley and leaves, and the hot accompanying sauce.
My first companion chose the fillet steak sandwich (£9) with crispy shallots, onion chutney and watercress.
He said the meat was tender and flavoursome but the onion chutney was a little too sweet for his liking.
The bread was fresh and crispy and the accompanying chips were perfect.
My other fellow diner had the fish and chips (£10.95) which he described as “amazing”.
The sea bass in tempura batter was crispy, piping hot and the flesh was very moist. The accompanying tartare sauce was full of flavour and had some tangy bite to it, but the mushy peas were quite dry and disappointing.
The dining area and bar at All Bar One is spacious and airy, with comfortable leather clad chairs and booths on two levels.
The restroom is rather inconveniently located in the basement and I had to be re-directed twice to find it.
The location is a prime one, but we arrived as workmen were setting up for the arrival of the Ice Cube rink next week, and the usual city view was obscured. I would imagine this is a minor irritant for the venue and its clientele every time a major event or attraction comes to Millennium Square,
We had popped in for an early lunch at midday and were the only customers there at that point. But it filled up nicely over the next half hour or so and was soon buzzing. The service was prompt and very friendly, although we would need to go at a busier time to truly test it.
Our three-way bill was £34, which included one soft drink each, a very reasonably priced lunchtime treat we thought.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5