Review: Wanderlust - 'The cheesburger springrolls tasted exactly as you'd expect'
Wanderlust, 111 Coliemore Rd, Dalkey, Co Dublin. (01) 235-1548
I don't know about you but sometimes, I'm just not in the mood for pennywort and goat brains. Call me difficult, but that's just the way it is. Sometimes, I don't even fancy eel snot and turnip, or wallflower and tripe, or whatever eclectic permutation of ingredients I'm being offered by a chef who's spent too much time trying to figure out how to be the next Rene Redzepi, and not enough worrying about how his food actually tastes.
Sometimes we in what we rather grandly refer to as the 'food community' take ourselves just that little bit too seriously. We fool ourselves that we are somehow important. That anyone outside our particular ivory tower cares about foraging, or micro-dairies, or organic rare-breed pork. That our pronouncements are of earth-shattering significance, when of course they are no such thing.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy a dish of chickweed and pig testicles just as much as the next woman, because of course I do. I'm a fan of many of the innovative chefs working in Ireland today, proud of their efforts to work closely with their local farmers, growers and producers, and of the green shoots of an emerging Irish cuisine that means something more than beef and Guinness stew or bacon and cabbage, delicious though both can be.
But, despite the increasingly widespread availability of innovative food, sometimes you just fancy a burger. Or meatballs with linguine. Or tacos. Or peri peri chicken. And if you just can't make up your mind about what you want to eat, or you're with other people and you all want to eat something different, if one of you has a yen for Italian, and another for Mexican, and another for Chinese, then it can be hard to agree on where to go for dinner. One restaurant worth considering is Wanderlust, which makes no bones about offering a culturally diverse menu. It's 'Now That's What I Call World Cuisine', with a menu that's commendably short but still takes in the food of half a dozen countries, without getting too hung up on the authenticity of any of the dishes. It's such a clever approach, this setting out of one's stall as the restaurant version of a cover band, that I wonder why no one has done it before.
Anyway, Wanderlust has been open for a few weeks in Dalkey and, judging by the evidence of a recent Tuesday night visit, its formula is already a hit with the locals.
We'd booked and, arriving just after 7pm, were offered a table just inside the door. It was undoubtedly the worst in the house, with the wind whistling in every time somebody came in or out. As there were plenty of better options available, we held out for a corner position.
Outside, Wanderlust is Instagram-smart, while the interior is all exposed brick, filament light bulbs, a mix of simple wooden and marble-topped tables, and some good-looking chairs and banquettes.
We started with fish tacos, salt and five spice squid, prawns pil-pil and cheese burger spring rolls. Yes, you read that last one right. As well as cover versions, the kitchen at Wanderlust also dishes up fusion originals, and these came highly recommended by our waiter.
The panko-breaded unidentified fish in the fish tacos came on a soft tortilla with guacamole and chipotle mayo that had a decent kick to it; the textures were good. The squid were flaccid but tasty enough, while the prawns were utterly without flavour except for that which came from the charred bread that accompanied them, and which we used to mop up the chilli and garlic oil. The spring rolls came with American mustard and ketchup for dipping and tasted exactly as you would expect, if you had ever thought about what a cheeseburger spring roll might taste like. We liked them, in a slightly furtive way.
Of our main courses, the burger and baby back ribs were both good choices. The burger is classic and modestly sized, with a good complement of pickle, cheese and iceberg lettuce, although the fries are skinny and unexciting - the sweet potato version is better. The ribs are Asian spiced, meaty and macho, and were a hit at several other tables as well as our own. Less successful were the Portuguese peri-peri chicken - soggy skin, no discernible spicing or chilli, dull, dull, dull - and the steak frites flatbread: rib-eye cooked rather more than the rare ordered, and accompanied by underwhelming flatbread, beetroot hummus, and tzatziki, although we liked the pickled red onion.
For dessert, a good chocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream, and a sundae that ticked all the sugary boxes with pieces of honeycomb, chocolate crumbs and salted caramel sauce.
I've never eaten at Mak at D6 but understand that Wanderlust is owned by the same family. Part of me is delighted by the cheerful lack of pretension that is the Wanderlust schtick, but I'm concerned by the absence of any provenance information (I don't want to eat battery chicken or industrial pork, if that's what Wanderlust is serving - and if they're not, then I wish they'd tell me), and by the poor execution of some simple dishes. Our bill for four, with two sides, a bottle of Costadoro Rosso and two glasses of red wine, plus a couple of diet cokes and bottled water, came to €190 before service. Our waiter was great.
6/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
Grilled ham and cheese - slow-cooked ham hock with red cheddar, served with fries and salad - costs €8 at lunch on Friday.
ON A BLOWOUT
Fish tacos to start, followed by the steak frites flatbread with sides of corn on the cob and onion rings, and desserts, would cost €90 for two before drinks.
THE HIGH POINT
Engaging staff and a menu that will make a lot of people happy. Wanderlust does not take itself too seriously, which is another plus.
THE LOW POINT
A broken sink in the bathroom and nowhere to wash hands.
Whispers from the gastronomicon
Lorcan and Sarah Quinn are the brother and sister team behind Enrich and Endure, which makes aprons using 100pc Irish linen. Based in Northern Ireland, Enrich and Endure's aprons are handmade, and feature double-tracked stitching, antique brass sliders, bar tacks, sturdy straps and a little linnet motif. The company supplies restaurants, bars and coffee shops with customised aprons, but they are also available to purchase online from £49 at enrichandendure.com and would make a gorgeous gift for any stylish home cook.