From no-go to boho
Wuff is a beacon of light in a formerly run-down area of inner city Dublin
The real sign that Benburb Street has gone from no-go to boho is a storm lantern hanging outside Wuff, its newest restaurant. The large glass box has a thick church candle flickering warmly inside, surrounded by some miniature squash. It’s like a Martha Stewart postcard. Underneath, there’s a woven basket full of flowering heathers.
Until the Luas cut through here, this Dublin back street, running parallel to the city’s quays, was one of the city’s saddest red light districts, a place where young addicts waited in dark doorways. It was a long way from storm lanterns and baskets of flowers.
Wuff is in a lovely corner building and makes a cosy city sight on a winter’s night. There are more candles inside and filament bulbs in cages. It has the kind of smart vintage feel that makes you think this place has been here a long time. It hasn’t. The building is old. It’s listed on Dublin City Council’s list of protected structures. But before this, it was a car radio shop the waitress says, and before that it may have been a post office. One of the owners bought the building and lives upstairs, she explains. They wanted to do something with the ground floor and Wuff is the result.
Inside, the lighting is dim enough to require one table of two couples to pass around a communal pair of reading glasses to decipher the menu. An old iron squared grill on the inside of the window cuts the light from outside into crisp rectangles.
When the Luas to town runs by, it feels like the driver and passengers have glided by your table close enough to reach out and nab a chip.
There is a mirror set into the wall above the banquette seating on one side so the glow from headlights and tail lights bounces around here, turning the city traffic into a light show.
So the setting is romantic. It lets you see a bit of Dublin anew and be beguiled by its urban character. But what about the food? It’s great too, in that competent bistro-cooking way. A shared starter of pigeon breast on Puy lentils combines a smoky charred skin with the silkiness of this dark luscious meat. The lentils have tiny ribbons of bacon in the mix and some pea shoots to finish it off.
The dry-aged sirloin steak arrives much more medium than medium-rare, but is still good. A strand of cherry tomatoes confited on their stalk looks and tastes great. The chips are a textbook combination of fluff and crisp. The only quibble is a cold and slightly too teeny portion of an otherwise excellent Béarnaise sauce.