Now and again we receive unusual product samples into the office and the latest incarnation was a nod to the much loved Irish playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde, a rather elegant looking new filtered water called “Wilde”. Beautifully packaged in a flamboyant way we are sure Oscar would be proud of, it has a tagline of being “the champagne of waters” given to it by Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland. Having tasted it that may be a
stretch too far.
What was interesting was the connotation any association that Wilde’s name brings – being Irish, imaginative, slightly extravagant and most importantly being unique. Not an easy task if you are trying to culminate all these qualities into a hotel restaurant, however that is precisely what The Westbury have done with their overhaul of their well known restaurant Wilde. Having reviewed the same venue two years ago, it was hard to recognise many similarities between old and new.
The menu has been significantly upgraded to reflect current trends, it feels fresh, with lots of Eastern Influence and a broad spectrum to satisfy even the fussiest of diners. We dropped in on a busy Saturday service to find a very different Wilde than what we remembered.
The Westbury is no doubt an iconic location in Dublin City, whether enjoying afternoon tea, sipping a coffee in the Gallery or sampling award winning cocktails in their elegant cocktail bar The Side Car, it is a place that always seems to be a hive of activity. Getting people to see hotel restaurants as a great night out can be a different challenge, you need to create a space that is visually beautiful, has food that can live up to the stylish 1930’s styling and most importantly has a atmosphere that makes you want to come back.
It always helps when you have a full house for a review, it is a great barometer of just how well organised a venue is, how experienced the staff are and whether they have a kitchen and a head chef that can maintain the levels of consistency. Thankfully we were more than impressed on all counts.
The room is spacious, sophisticated and has been designed to bring the outside in, chic Donegal Wollen Mill textiles are dotted around the covered garden terrace overlooking Balfe Street, which opens out during the summer months. Rich, olive green upholstery mixed with tan leather seating, and climbing vines, all exude a little bit of decadence, much like some of the dishes on the night.
The menu has been created by head chef Sandeep Singh, who has worked at The Westbury for over six years and comes from good stock with several five star hotels making up his resume. It is obvious since we last dined here, Sandeep has been given more freedom with the menu. There are of course the obvious staples of “Rib Eye Steak, lobster and salmon. However it is the addition of dishes like Hereford beef burger & fries (€22), Grilled Lamb Cutlets with Harissa (€29) and Spiced mackerel fillet (€12) that got us excited.
With over fourteen starters to choose from (many of which can be ordered as a main also) and a bit of debate we settled on mouthwateringly good Tempura of Soft Shell Crab (€14), which works beautifully when deep fried. Tempuras are always a challenge to make look pretty; with this dish it was all about the flavour, a rustic black bean sauce with a delicious sweetness to it and a zingy asian slaw complimented this crustacean wonderfully.
Our second starter was a little bit more traditional, a Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad (€12), with some modern little twists, crunchy potato crips dotted throughout that added a nice textural contrast to the perfectly poached egg and silkiness of the tuna. We love seeing old classics being reinvented and although not breaking any moulds this perfectly seasoned dish was faultless.
We have all been there, looking over the menu seeing a tempting starter and wishing it was one of the mains instead, thankfully Wilde’s offering the option of many of the starters as mains. That said we began with a very well priced Skeaghonore Duck Breast (€22), sliced into tiny slivers with a crisp jacket of fat that managed to retain all of its sweet flavour. It’s well known what a good pairing duck makes with Asian influenced dishes and this was no exception. It was partnered with a refreshing mango and bean sprout salad, brought to life with some heat from the tiny strands of chilli hidden beneath. We paired this with a stunning glass of Castello Banfi Centine 2014 (€14), a Tuscan delight, well chosen by resident sommelier the ever charming Flavio. We were slightly concerned his preference may have been biased (clue is in the name) but true to his word this wine was a match made in heaven.
Across the table was the catch of the day, which had apparently been enjoyed by Bob Geldof earlier in the day, three generous pieces of Pan Fried Sea Bass (€26) sat daringly alongside a bountiful helping of Sea asparagus (samphire to some) officially known as Salicornia, which means salty horn in Latin, but don’t let that put you off! This one tasted as though it was slightly pickled which we liked, the only down side was the addition of boiled new potatoes which felt slightly dated next to all the other elements.
We had been swayed to sample two sides on the menu by our waiter on the night Conor, who has hospitality running through his veins and a fantastic future ahead. Originally we ordered just a side of the most divine Lobster mash, yes lobster mash, possibly the tastiest thing known to man. Buttery enough to bring on a mini heart attack, but so worth it, especially when you sample the chunks of lobster hidden beneath like buried treasure.
It was however a cauliflower that stole the show that night, one of our least favourite things, but when you have a waiter telling if you only tasted one thing on the entire menu it had to be this you feel slightly obliged to forgo your distain and give it a try. Billed on the menu simply as “cauliflower & pomegranate” this curried side was so good we were begging them to have it as a main on the menu. This is a must try if you dine here.
We finished a fantastic meal over a glass of Tawny port and a plate of Irish Cheeses (€9), (Cashel Blue, Cooleeney Brie and Ardsallagh hard Goats Cheese) pondering how more people aren’t taking about this chef and the quality of his food, particularly given the restrictions that often can occur in a hotel restaurant.
Wilde is a lot more than style over substance, it’s a new destination, it’s elegant, it’s atmospheric and has staff not only knowledgeable but engaging and warm, but don’t take our word for it, take a walk on the Wilde side for yourself.
Dinner excluding service came to €111.00 including two glasses of wine.
The Westbury Hotel
2 Grafton Street,
T: 353 1 646 3352
W : www.doylecollection.com
Keith & Jules Mahon are the founders of TheTaste. We want TheTaste to be a culinary kaleidoscope to champion every taste, food, wine, cocktails, whiskey, etc. We are delighted to be part of such a creative and fast moving industry and are very passionate about sharing with you our unique journey around Ireland finding the best culinary hotspots.