Review: Wynn’s Hotel is an irony-free zone, right down to the fantail of melon

This Dublin institution could attract a new audience if they lavished love on the classics

Wynn's Hotel
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Address: Lower Abbey St
Telephone: (01) 874 5131
Cuisine: French
Cost: €€€

We wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t run out of beef stew in the Peacock’s new cafe. We’d be sitting on minimalist chairs in a stark basement

with a polished concrete counter for an early dinner before the play. Instead we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum. Welcome to Dublin’s most un-ironic dining room. Like two country clerics who missed the train home, we have washed up in Wynn’s Hotel for dinner.

It’s a surprisingly lovely room. Yes there is the hotel-issue carpet underfoot – an old sepia photograph shows this room used to have a beautiful terrazzo floor. But the room wears it well, like a dowager dressed so glamorously from the ankles up you forgive the carpet slippers. There are high ceilings and three vast gilt mirrors echo the large front windows. The chairs are dated but comfortable. There are fresh flowers, nice lamps and on the mahogany tables a white linen runner, so starched you could cut yourself on it. Ditto the linen napkins folded into old-school peaked rounds. There’s a class of an open kitchen, a nod to now that probably had the regular clientele wondering to what the world was coming. If they turned down the lighting overhead and let the lamps and tea lights on the table do more then it would be all the better. But then trickier to decipher the menu with your reading glasses.

We are easily half the age of the handful of other people here, until someone's son arrives to join a table. It's the sort of place you expect a moustachioed Peter Bowles type in tweeds and mustard trousers to wander in and twinkle.


There’s a baked mushroom starter that sounds tempting but for the copy alone I order the fantail of melon. It’s just as I expected except for the large fruit that looks like an olive on steroids but turns out to be a tangy crab apple, cooked and presented with the stalk still on. The melon is a standard-issue fan of green flesh with a chunk of pink watermelon alongside. There’s a house sorbet that tastes like it was made with raspberry jam, rather than actual raspberries. The bread is straight-out-of-the-cellophane brown soda (McCambridge’s I’m guessing) with butter in the individual foil wrappers that will be placed on breakfast tables in the morning.

So far, so indifferent but the other starter is better. It’s a crème brûlée- style creamy mix of salmon, prawn and crab topped with a crunchy parmesan layer. It hits all the right notes of fish, cream and cheese and goes swimmingly with a glass of Guinness from the bar which comes in a baby pint glass.

If you like, you can have two types of potatoes with your main course. There are the “serrano potatoes” that come with my roast pork which can be teamed with a side of boiled “new season” potatoes or potatoes florentine. There’s enough pork on the plate to feed a family, piled in thick slices over the gravy laced spuds. It’s not bad but not brilliant. The better meat is on the other plate, luscious threads of duck sliced from under crisp skin. This “duck à l’orange” comes with a sauce that tastes like a two-litre bottle of Fanta boiled down to syrup.

We finish with the profiteroles which are not chocolatey enough and are filled with the kind of synthetic piped cream that gives hotel dining a bad name.

Wynn’s is playing to its audience rather than trying to attract a new one. But this place could get a hipster crowd if they lavished more love on their menu classics. I love the room. The service is great and I suspect this is a kitchen that could produce food that would do both justice. Pre-theatre dinner for two with two glasses of wine and a glass of Guinness came to €69

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests