Meal Ticket: Wuff, Benburb St, Dublin 7

Some good potential in the early bird at this welcoming Stoneybatter restaurant

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  • 23 Benburb Street, Dublin 7
  • (01) 5320347
  • Irish

You get a sense of coming home from the moment you enter Wuff. There’s an incredibly friendly welcome to this corner building in Stoneybatter. My sisters and I are late for our reservation, but that’s fine, no matter, we’re ushered in to the open, grey room to a long leather banquette running the length of one wall. Iron-framed windows dominate two others, while the fourth holds a high counter and wine racks.

The openness of the room makes for good people-watching. And there are lots to watch: the wooden tables are full on a blustery midweek evening – mostly with groups of friends in their 40s and 50s. It could feel oppressive here, with the dark colour scheme and prison-like windows, but candles and strings of twinkling lights make it feel like we’re in someone’s front room.

We start with cocktails, mostly because one of them is called a Wufftini. Just as most front-room cocktails are lacking a little something, the Wufftini doesn’t quite get it right. Served in a flute (€7.95), it’s a neither-flat-nor-fizzy blend of pink grapefruit juice, grenadine and prosecco. A Mosecco (€7.95) is a dramatic looking concoction of lime juice, soda, prosecco and mint. It looks – and, unfortunately, tastes – a bit like mouthwash. The wine list, however, is a greater success, and we have a punchy, biodynamic 2013 Matsu Il Picaro (€33).

Ode to comfort
The menu is an ode to comfort, including a warm-duck salad, crispy hen’s egg, a nut tajine and confit lamb shank. The early bird is €19 for two courses, €22.50 for three, and is served all night Thursdays, and from 5.30pm to 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday. It’s a decent replica of the a la carte, with sides slightly paired back.

Mains are very homely, while the starters are more ambitious. We begin with a goat’s cheese and herb samosa salad; triangles of light, airy pastry are filled with a tasty smear of tangy goats cheese. The accompanying salad is fresh, but some bitter, tinned black olives let it down. Oyster Beef Rice Balls (€10 from a la carte) are more main that starter in size – some very good medium-rare medallions of beef in oyster sauce with three enormous “rice balls” which have been deep fried for too long, drying out the centre and taking the coating beyond crunchy. Popcorn King Prawns are the best of the three, with four fat prawns coated in fried paw san rice, which gives a satisfying crunch and lots of flavour.

The four early bird mains focus on beef, chicken, fish and a vegetarian tagine. The beef (€3 supplement) is a butter-cooked rib eye with twice-cooked chips and pepper sauce. It’s a good piece of meat, very well cooked with crunchy, fluffy centred chips (a shame the rice balls didn’t have the same finish). A watery pepper sauce lets the side down on an otherwise solid dish.

A fillet of duck (€18.50 from a la carte) is another well-cooked piece of meat; seared, and perfectly pink inside. It sits on a rather loose celeriac mash, with a sweet red-wine jus and a tangle of rocket (plus some out-of-place cubes of raw pepper).

The chicken breast, roasted on the bone and served with a warm potato, chorizo and pea salad, seems to fit with the homely theme; but while the salad is good, with chewy chunks of piquant chorizo and a delicate basil and lemon dressing, the chicken is a big letdown: it’s overcooked, and the last few bites are screaming out for a gravy or sauce to help alleviate the dryness.

Wuff is a sweet neighbourhood restaurant, doing some things very well. The early bird is good value – if they can sort that chicken out.