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17 November 2016

a pre-theatre dinner at all bar one

back when i worked in soho and we would venture out after work on a friday night, we usually kept it very low-key and local. usually. there was the odd exception - be it a christmas party or a leaving-do, that brought us out further west than we'd normally venture, and we'd always always always end up stumbling into whatever looked the less touristy spot in leicester square before we ended our evening. usually, the all bar one. so of it, i have some pretty fun memories.

so, when i found out that last week the newly-renovated bar was relaunching to the public with a newly-updated restaurant, bar, and menu, well.. i was intrigued. would it still be the tourist trap it used to be? would the late-night customers still be as sloppy as we were? time would tell, and i was quite keen to spend some time there. so, pre-theatre date with viki last week, we did just that.

first thing to note: no, it's nothing like i remember. with high ceilings, low-hung and dim lighting, and expansive wooden bars on both the top and bottom floors, it's not the tacky bar it used to be. thankfully. the bars are well stocked with such a variety of drinks that i had to take suggestions from juan our water for a wine to order. craft beer, top shelf liquors and locally-made wines filled both bars, making decisions alone awfully difficult. thankfully juan knew what he was doing, and his suggestion of the villa dee fiori pecorino (£21.75 a bottle) was lively and zippy with the taste of exotic fruits, and just what the doctor ordered.

we started with a sharing platter. the grazing board (£16) came quickly, and was as long as the table was wide. we were presented with chorizo and halloumi skewers, teriyaki chicken skewers, salt and pepper calamari rings, piri-piri drizzled houmous, lebanese-style flatbread, and the house nachos with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo salsa with green chillies, and some home-made tortilla chips that were perfecly crispy, with a hint of spice to them (and tasty on their own!).

the platter was another suggestion of juan's and my my, he was two for tow. my favourite of the board was the chorizo and haloumi skewers, and the calamari. always the calamari. for the price it was, we sure as hell got our value for money - that board left us with quite a lot of food still on it, so coulld have easily been shared for a main.

we did, of course, still order mains. we both decided that steak frittes were in order, albeit with different toppings and cooking times. viki fancies her meat blue, while i prefer mine to not be mooing, so allowed juan to talk me into a medium piece over the medium well i originally wanted. i also chose for king prawns to be served along with the creamy peppercorn sauce and parmesan and rosemary fries that come with the dish (£17.50). despite my concern there might be too much pink on my plate, the meat was cooked absolutely perfectly, and in truth, the sauces were not needed.

the cuts were so well prepared and cooked that the natural flavours were all that were needed to satisfy my palette. we did also order sweet potato fries, but we barely touched them. we were both so full from our starters that the fries that came with would have been plenty, so the second serve was awfully gluttonous.

despite his numerous attempts, we were unable to agree on sampling the dessert that juan so encouraged. the churros to share (£6.50) and the salted caramel  torte (£5.50) were definitely calling, but alas, so was the theatre. we had mere moments to make it to the venue on time for the show, but if we'd had longer to digest our food and maybe grab another glass of wine, i'm quite sure our gluttony would have continued!

not only was the food and drink reasonably priced and served quickly, but the staff and service we encountered was nothing short of incredible. juan was able to make excellent recommendations at every turn, and made light work of making sure we had everything we needed to be satisfied. which we were; very much so. so, think what you will of the all bar one brand, but do spare a second thought for the leicester square restaurant the next time you're in central london and wanting to escape the tourist trap for something a little less tacky, and a little more inviting.

48 leicester square, london wc2h 7lu
020 3846 1451

*our meals were complimentary, but all words are my own*

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