Re­view Cather­ine Cleary eats at Wilde restau­rant in the West­bury

Wilde restau­rant in the West­bury has style, am­bi­tion and lorry- loads of flavour

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS - CATHER­INE CLEARY

There’s a same­ness about bad ho­tel restau­rants. They’re filled with din­ers who are too tired or un­ad­ven­tur­ous to ven­ture out, staffed by peo­ple who are less than pushed about daz­zling any­one. The tone is one big shoul­der shrug of “it’ll do”. It may be the break­fast ef­fect. A few hours af­ter down­ing your dessert fork, you might be fish­ing mar­malade out of a jar at the same ta­ble. Ho­tel din­ing rooms can be places where am­bi­tion goes cold and more than a bit rub­bery around the edges.

All that bag­gage is trundling with me to the West­bury on a Fri­day night to try Wilde restau­rant. I can re­sist ev­ery­thing but the temp­ta­tion to make ass ump­tions. The West­bury is a hemmed- in build­ing. It doesn’t have the grand vis­tas of Dublin’s other posh ho­tels, tucked as i t i s be­hind side streets with coach park­ing out the back. So the ho­tel turns its back on the city ( and the cen­tury – the theme here is the 1930s) and tries in­stead to cre­ate clubby spa­ces such as Wilde.

This restau­rant is on the first floor, one deck up from Balfes, the ho­tel’s other, more ca­sual of­fer­ing. There’s a long, hand­some room lit with a line of orb lanterns set to the il­lu­mi­na­tion level of a back­room seance. We’re sit­ting on the “cov­ered gar­den ter­race”, which looks out over Harry Street and can be opened to the el­e­ments. Tonight the plas­tic win­dows ( they’re nicer than that sounds) are closed to seal out the chill. There are painted rat­tan chairs and cosy rugs. Ivy has been trained up the walls be­tween the win­dows. The fo­liage is fake, which is a bit heart- sink­ing, but made up for by the el­e­gance of the rest of the room and our round mar­ble ta­ble.

And then my pol­ished set of as­sump­tions are prop­erly squashed by a joy of a meal. Some­one has made a jar of fer­mented car­rot. So what? Well, this is the kind of stuff we pic­ture a chef- pa­tron do­ing in her tiny kitchen, burp­ing the jar twice a day and tast­ing the veg­eta­bles stew­ing in their own funk un­til they’re ready to serve to a hand­ful of lucky peo­ple at a pop- up. Jar burp­ing ( trust me, it’s a thing in the fer­men­ta­tion world) is not work we as­so­ciate with a busy kitchen scram­bling bot­tled eggs for break­fast. But here it is. The car­rot slaw has a great funky fizz to go with soft- shell crab in a feath­ery coat of bat­ter. There’s a s mall cube- shaped pot of black bean Name and Ad­dress, Wilde, The West­bury, Harry Street, Dublin 2, 01- 6463352 Mu­sic: Spillover from the bar/ lobby Food prove­nance: Skeaghanore duck, Castle­town­bere scal­lops and Car­ling­ford oys­ters Fa­cil­i­ties: Fine Wheel­chair ac­cess: Yes Veg­e­tar­ian op­tions: Lim­ited THE VER­DICT: Great heart­felt food in a smart ho­tel set­ting. soy- rich sauce to root all the guy ropes down like a tent peg. Th­ese three el­e­ments are as bril­liant a com­bi­na­tion as I’ve had in those more be­spoke places where they wear dark aprons and take them­selves very se­ri­ously.

My friend has a dish that sounds like a yawn but tastes so much bet­ter. Long- stem broc­coli has been cooked and then blanched to keep its crunch and colour and dressed lightly with ( I’m guess­ing) lemon and toasted sesame oil, be­fore be­ing served with oven- dried kale, cubes of sweet potato and cashew nuts for crunch. I’ve gone for an­other starter as a main. I fig­ure there’ll be enough meat in one of those beau­ti­ful west Cork Skeaghanore duck breasts ( pic­ture a reg­u­lar duck in a power pose) to satisfy. And there is. The only thing wrong with this plate is a slightly wa­tery beansprout salad that comes along­side. My com­pan­ion gets the flat iron steak, charred and smoky on the out­side, the lus­cious­ness of the meat in­side tes­ta­ment to the 28 days the meat spent age­ing. Great chips come in a cop­per pot along with an­other of juicy charred sweet­corn topped with feta so light it’s al­most still curd and strips of chilli just hot enough to bring a mild sting to the party.

A ¤ 15 plate of “minia­ture hand­made desserts” is beau­ti­ful, the five small cre­ations based on millinery de­signed by Ir­ish de­sign­ers. I’m sus­pi­cious of dessert beauty. This kind of fuss in pas­try of­ten trans­lates to a bland set of sugar bombs. But th­ese fas­ci­na­tors in food form have looks and taste, proper choco­late with a sooty dark­ness, a fluffy rasp­berry cheese­cake, a pearl made of white choco­late and sugar spun so it’s a light crunch rather than a tooth crack­ing wal­lop.

I’ll spare you the re­sults of a Google search for Os­car Wilde quotes about food. But I think the man him­self would have liked the place ( at least be­cause it’s sev­eral notches up from the food on the Os­car Wilde ferry). It’s more than a pas­tiche ho­tel restau­rant trad­ing on a fa­mous city son. It’s that de­li­cious Venn di­a­gram in­ter­sec­tion be­tween heart­felt food, whip- smart ser­vice and menu sta­ples pep­pered with more cre­ative dishes. If you hate ho­tel restau­rants, pre­pare to be hap­pily sur­prised.

Din­ner for two with a glass of wine and sparkling wa­ter came to ¤ 103

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