Obviously the first thing that most people will do when they sit themselves down in Wigwam – and this is largely a sitting down kind of place – is try to work out what part of the Twisted Pepper they are now in. Bodytonic’s flagship Middle Abbey Street venue may have gone, transformed into another of the city’s already stuffed ranks of bars-cum-restaurants, but memories of sweaty nights will be harder to erase. It is after all, only in the last year or so that people stopped calling The Grand Social “that place that used to be Pravda”.
However, while Wigwam’s current incarnation is not as strikingly original as Bodytonic have always been in their thinking, it still bears all the hallmarks of their unique management style. The space still hosts both Boxcutter hairdressers and Tom Stafford’s Vice Coffee, one of the city’s best cafés, during the daytime.
On our visit, we estimate we’re at the back left corner of the venue room of Twisted Pepper, or roughly sitting where one of Elastic Witch’s record racks used to be. We both tuck into Portobello mushroom burgers (€12) which come smothered is hilarious amounts of avocado butter and feels like a wholesomely vegetarian substitute for a Bunsen and served with some big hand-cut chips. Brazilian chef Pedro Ferraz has been praised by all and sundry for his work in the kitchen at Wigwam thus far, and with good reason. The bar offers a selection of their own brewing label Brewtonic, and a hearty selection of rums as well as a dozen or so beers on tap. We visit on a Friday evening when Wigwam has just begun its transition from its nighttime mode from its daytime use, and it’s you can imagine that the space – now one large, narrow room – will be cacophonous in a few hours time with folks using it as a base for the night, or a springboard for a move elsewhere in the city.
Unlike the most recent Bodytonic openings, the Back Page and the Square Ball (both sports themed bars) and MVP (a minimalist/dog-friendly bar), Wigwam feels like it hasn’t really found out what it is yet. Sure, it begins as the kind of bar/restaurant you will find opening frequently around the city, and in other hands you might feel like this is a place that falls between two stools, but under Bodytonic’s command, Wigwam feels more like a blank canvas than a hodge-podge. They have generally followed their own interests – and the interests of those that come to them with an idea and needing a space to try something out – rather than being steered by half-formed marketing groupthink. Wigwam feels like the beginning of another journey for the Bodytonic gang, rather than a definitive statement. It’s hard to see it not become about ten other things over the next 5 years, and it’s all the more exciting to have a space in the city like that.
Middle Abbey Street
t: 086 325 2471
Words: Ian Lamont
Photos: Killian Broderick