After a few nights of hardly any rest (the Baberoo is going through a rolling-onto-her-tummy-in-her-sleep phase and wails every hour to be turned over onto her back), I was sorely in need of a meeting with my NCT friends – not to mention a virgin mojito. Four of us headed with our babies to All Bar One (124 High Street, OX1 4DF) for a chat and commiseration session.
Virgin mojito duly obtained, I proceeded to order a Quinoa House Salad (£6) with grilled halloumi (an extra £2). The salad was full of fresh, healthy ingredients, although there could have been more dressing. Quinoa has a habit of soaking up liquid like a sponge, so it needs quite a lot of it for any flavour to come through. The grilled halloumi was perfection. I could have eaten another whole plate of it.
The rest of the group had all ordered brownies and ice cream (£5), and who was I to buck the trend? Besides, I needed the chocolate fix. The brownie was the gooey, cakey kind, and was very good indeed. I didn’t have a hot drink to go with it, but as my group knows from experience, any coffee, tea, or hot chocolate comes with a shotglass full of Smarties, which is a delightful tradition.
So how does All Bar One rate for baby-friendliness against my five criteria of menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding? (You can read more about my ratings scale on my About page.)
Menu: There are several items, mainly on the tapas menu, that can be eaten with one hand if you’re holding your baby in the other arm. Since the Baberoo was being fractious today due to lack of sleep, I went for the salad from the lunch menu and was pleased with how easy it was to eat, even while she was trying to grab my fork. Most of the lunch mains and burgers will need two hands, however, while the wraps are for the dextrous only. Note that the dinner menu will probably be out of bounds – there’s a policy at All Bar One that children under 14 are welcome until 6 pm, after which it’s adults only.
Space: Because it’s a bar and there needs to be standing room for evening patrons, there is plenty of space for baby carriages during the day and many tables are empty on weekday afternoons so you’ll have your choice of seating. Virtually all sections of the restaurant are easy to access with a carriage and there is lots of space for several carriages if you come with a group.
Ambiance: There was a shift change while we were there and both staff members who looked after us were extremely friendly and helpful. The place is fairly dark unless you’re sitting near the front of the restaurant. If your baby sleeps better in dark spaces then this is useful. It’s also quite cool, which is nice on a hot day like today. The music, however, has too much of a beat; two out of four babies in our party today became quite wired listening to it. (Mine slept!) Otherwise, the look of the place is mainly nondescript with a few rustic touches; it’s a giveaway that All Bar One is a chain, but it doesn’t matter much. If you’re a wine lover you can take a look at their prodigious display and look forward to the evening you finally go out sans baby.
Facilities: The baby-changing toilet is on the ground floor (all other bathrooms are upstairs). In my experience it sometimes requires a key to get in, although it was open today. The facilities are clean with a standard baby-changing unit, but no large sheets of disposable paper to lay under your baby. It’s got enough space for a baby carriage to fit inside comfortably. All in all, it’s your standard no-frills baby-changing area.
Feeding: Three of us were breastfeeding and there was no reaction from staff or patrons. There are some tables with benches or sofas if you find those more comfortable for feeding. One of our party asked for hot water to warm up her baby’s bottle and it was presented to us, very fancily, in a champagne cooler!
The final score for All Bar One for baby-friendliness is an 8 out of 10. It’s a good spot for a mid-afternoon break and you’ll be well looked after.