All Bar One Oxford has been situated on the High Street in the same spot for as long as I can remember. I visited a few years ago for a meal and the food was decent but didn’t particularly stand out.
I’ve since been back for drinks with some work colleagues and again, it was decent but nothing too memorable that brought me back soon after. You could almost go as far as saying it felt just like an upmarket Weatherspoons at the time, so why didn’t you just go to a ‘spoons?
However, recently All Bar One got in touch with me to let me know they’ve just had a full refurbishment and a completely redeveloped new menu. They kindly offered to provide us with food and drinks in exchange for an honest review.
The word on the street is that they are set to become one of the city’s favourite drinking and dining spots so I had to come and see what the fuss was about.
Interestingly, All Bar One is almost next door to the recently opened Ivy and I wonder if they’ve seen a loss in customers since they opened. If you follow my blog I wasn’t all that impressed by the Ivy and now that All Bar One has had its refurbishment I was very interested to see how they compare.
It looks like they really went all out on the refurbishment. The way in which I would describe the new theme would be tropical and luxurious.
We asked our waitresses’ opinion and she said she felt like all the decoration came from the Oliver Bonas homeware section in a proud tone.
I’ve never been to an Oliver Bonas but after checking out their website I can see what she means and to me, it would suggest she was equally impressed by the quality of finish as we were.
Food and Drinks
I really like the style of the new menu in All Bar One Oxford, with a focus on small plates for sharing. We decided to embrace this and instead of going for a set three-course menu or picking a couple of mains and sides like we usually do, we went for a hearty selection of small plates to share so we could try a bit of everything that took our fancy.
From the food menu, we decided to order: Tortilla Chips with Pico de Gallo Salsa, Mac & Cheese, Salt & Pepper Calamari, Karaage Sticky Chicken, Halloumi Fries and the Chilli ‘Non’ Carne Tacos with some Biscoff Cheesecake to finish.
To accompany our meal. I went for a Camden Hells Larger which was very nice. My other half likes gin so she tried one of the new Gintonica specials on the menu in All Bar One Oxford. You can see how it was made from the description in the image above. I can take or leave gin, to be honest as I think it has a bit of a bitter taste, but after trying the Raspberry & Peach Gintonica (and considering it was a double) the gin was not overpowering at all and had a really subtle nice taste.
It would be a great drink for a night out because you could easily knock back a few of those without realising it!
The calamari was decent. We have it almost everywhere we go which you might have noticed if you read my blog sometimes. What really impressed me though was how great the Tortilla Chips below were. I know it sounds silly and they are such a simple item but they came out really warm and they were just so incredibly moreish.
The Halloumi Fries were on point, with a decent enough portion to leave you not wanting any more after. I would definitely not be able to have a full potion of that to myself.
The Karaage Sticky Chicken was so good. I think it was chicken thigh because the meat was so tender and fell apart inside the crunchy batter. The sticky sauce was possibly the nicest sauce with chicken I’ve had in a long time.
It was nice to see quite a variety of vegan options on the menu. This is part of a collaboration between All Bar One and Instagrammer Clare every (@thelittlelondonvegan). We wanted to try the Chilli ‘Non’ Carne Tacos and I have to say, which is possibly the best compliment for a vegan item, is that if I didn’t know I wouldn’t have said it was vegan! It was incredibly tasty and to me was just like having a normal taco.
The Mac & Cheese was very rich, similar to the Halloumi Fries you would not want a portion to yourself really. It was great still.
After all of that, we were pretty stuffed, to be honest. But I have a slight obsession with Biscoff so after seeing it on the menu in All Bar One Oxford I had to order it.
Considering I love Biscoff so much I’ve never had a Biscoff cheesecake which is a bit surprising. The texture was amazing with a creamy cheese middle and a lovely crumbly base. The banana and toffee sauce added to the sweetness of it all. What really surprised me though, and I didn’t realise until our waitress told me was that this was completely vegan? Usually whenever you hear vegan and cheese together its already doomed but this was definitely an exception so was a pleasant surprise.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts
All in all, I have to say I was really impressed by the complete refurbishment at All Bar One Oxford. Although the layout of the place is the same as before, you can tell almost everything has been replaced. The staff seemed so proud and high in spirit in the new setting too.
In terms of the food, I think they’ve really upped their game. It was most certainly a better food experience than I had at the Ivy, although that was breakfast and this was dinner so it’s hard to compare directly. I can certainly say the service was leaps and bounds better than the Ivy though!
So, do I still think this is an upmarket ‘spoons? No, definitely not. They have far removed themselves from that image now and I would say that this has become a much trendier place to be in the centre of Oxford now, on par with a lot of the rooftop bars in Westgate Oxford, if not beating them slightly due to such a good location on the High Street.