We found ourselves there quite by chance for pre-theatre drinks – The Carriageworks is next door – and I’m glad we did. It has the look of a cosy retreat, an effect emphasised now the nights are drawing in. But that’s not the best thing about this version of All Bar One. No, the best thing is its aspect, which affords it a view across the sweeping stone-flagged quadrangle that is Millennium Square, with City Hall acting as picture postcard backdrop.
On nights like this, as the city is winding down and its citizens come out to play, the space comes into its own.
My companion is driving and so orders the obligatory diet something-or-other (I’m sure they will go out of fashion at some point), leaving me free to indulge, which I duly do with a nicely balanced Maisel’s Weisse (£5.50 for 500ml), a German wheat bear with serious depth in terms of flavour, a complex bouquet which starts off a little bit bananary (if that’s a word) and has a bit of a fruity zing to it and yet all this is kind of offset by the light carbonation and a slightly creamy texture from the maltiness of the wheat.
Being a modern bar, they even have an app, which allows you to ‘download’ their ‘2-for-1’ cocktails offer. But this isn’t just an after-work pit-stop, nor even a pre-theatre wash-up, there’s food here too and the ‘2-for-1’ offer even extends to the menu for what they are calling ‘Wellness Wednesdays’, where you can gorge on the conscience-free ‘super foods’ of the day, such as avocado and black rice salad, which apparently features two (count them) of your five a day, and is rich in vitamin B6 and which has an “extra Omega-3 kick”. So, presumably, if you order that, the glass of wine which accompanies it is guilt-free?
As if that wasn’t enough novelty, there’s Tapas Tuesdays, bottomless brunches, even the main menu looks relatively healthy, sporting things like ginger teriyaki chicken skewers and halloumi fries. Off-setting that are dishes like box-baked camembert and charcuterie, which comes with fennel salami, Coppa ham, prosciutto crudo, box-baked camembert, red onion chutney, bread, olives and rocket.
And that’s about it really. It’s all things to all people, which is not a bad thing at all when you’re pretty much at the centre of the entire city. Service is as clean and polished as the table tops, the floor and the twisted metal light fittings; the toilets ;are immaculate, but like I said, over and above all this comfort and utility, it’s the view that does it for me. Whether you’re into people watching or not, All Bar One gives you time to sit back and appreciate what has to be one of the most understated and yet beautiful cityscapes in the country.