You might miss the Wild Duck if you weren’t looking for it. Tucked away on Sycamore Street, one of Temple Bar’s grottier and less trodden throughways. On one hand, the location is enviable for its centrality but unlikely to be blessed with too much in the way of passing foot traffic. In fact, The Wild Duck’s most high profile neighbour might be innocuous looking doorway on the other side of the lane – the stage entrance for the Olympia theatre. The ease with which one could flit between the bar and the backstage bowels of The Olympia seems to be central to the The Wild Duck’s identity as it bills itself as a “Theatre Bar”.
The showbiz connection makes all the more sense when you consider who is pulling the strings behind this new endeavour – Gary Whelan – the brains behind long-standing domestic music mecca; Whelan’s. The Wild Duck’s schtick is certainly distinct from that of the venue that bear’s the owner’s name. Where Whelan’s strives to assert the venue’s hallowed position within the the Irish scene, The Wild Duck embraces a more slapdash approach in relation to interior design. The visually cacophonous maximalism of the Duck’s look does carry with it a certain charm in its individuality. Far from feeling like the identikit vision of a hired design house – the innumerable curios that plaster the walls were all sourced from Whelan’s own personal collection. Ornately framed oil paintings of continental bridges and bucolic slices of pastoral living hang proudly beside a dog-eared poster for Dame Edna Everage’s stage show An Evening of Intercourse. The idiosyncratic flavour of place means that, by accident or design, The Wild Duck dodges the pitfall of appealing to a half-imagined past, which can only be refreshing considering the self-mythologising favoured by other newcomers to the bar scene. Sure, it feels a bit like a kind of far-out cabaret meets Celtic Tiger sensory stew, but at least it has got its own thing going on.
The patio-style covered smoking area is also a feature that shouldn’t be sniffed at. Reports are that in the coming months The Wild Duck will open some sort of theatre space and install – in a move that bangs of Bond villain lair – a large retractable glass roof. When all is said and done the pub/venue is set to stretch over 8,000 square feet. How their present air of wonky specificity will transfer over to the finished article remains to be seen. The downside? Well, Temple Bar pricing is in effect with Guinness clocking in at €5.80. Is that even scandalous anymore? It’s hard to remember.
Words: Danny Wilson
Photo: Killian Broderick
17/20 Sycamore Street, Dublin 2