If I were ever to open a bar, I’ve always said it would be near a theatre.
There is no buzz like the buzz of a cast of actors piling into the local for a well-deserved pint after a rip-roaring show.
A place where the piano is always alive thanks to the musical talent that has spilled in from next door for a singsong before bed.
In my hometown Waterford, the go-to is The Munster Bar on The Mall, twenty steps away from the front door of the Theatre Royal. Whether there’s a show in the Royal or not, it’s become the meeting place for artists and theatre-lovers in the city.
There are a few key ingredients for a really good theatre bar. Proximity to a theatre is the obvious one. Then you need a piano; posters and show memorabilia on the walls so the thespians feel at home; really good, bold, grub (no rabbit food). A smashing pint of Guinness. It helps if the proprietor is a showbiz head, too.
The Wild Duck, the latest venture from Gary Whelan (Whelans, The Dalkey Duck) ticks all the boxes. Just around the corner from the Olympia Theatre, The Wild Duck has occupied the space left behind by McGregor’s favourite nightclub, SIN.
I popped in this week for a sneak peek of the place where the piano has already been christened by Gavin James and Tom Odell. Not bad for a spot that hasn’t been open a month yet.
Myself and my companion got the full tour before we sat down for lunch. First we were shown around the “little duck” – the open-fronted smoking-friendly terrace leading into the retro cozy interior adorned with an eclectic array of art pieces from Gary’s own collection.
The former Ballykissangel star has an art collection that would make your head spin, stored in warehouses in the UK.
That’s where he was when I popped in for a visit – retrieving some of his collection. There’s no designers here, it’s all Gary’s own antiques, curiosities and mementoes, gathered over many years. It feels like the Wild Duck has been around for decades – it’s already a haven of memories.
The Wild Duck has opened under the watchful eye of Kristan Burness (The Dalkey Duck, formerly Fiorentina), who shows us around the rest of the 8,000 square foot venue – still a work in progress.
He tells us the venue will eventually open a large, flexible theatre and arts space, and a mezzanine roof top bar with a retractable glass roof, perfect for a range of events, performances and private and corporate hire.
The look throughout is retro, with an eclectic mix of vintage and modern art, prints, photos, furniture and curios.
Now, the FOOD.
I’ve already heard people in town refer to a hankering for ‘Duck O’ Clock’, and having tried the menu – I get it. I’ve been waiting for Duck O’ Clock since I left on Monday afternoon.
The all-day menu (with breakfast starting on Monday) comprises bar snacks, supper and dinner based on wings, dogs, burgers and fries.
Menu highlights include WILD WINGS in House Hot Sauce, Garlic or Stilton Mayo, a Wicklow Venison Burger, and Parmesan Truffle fries that I haven’t stopped thinking about since.
I also had the Dexter Beef Burger (€11) with smoked bacon (perfectly crispy), vintage cheddar, beef tomato, truffle mayo, and ketchup.
My companion had the chilli beef dog (€8.50), minus the cheese. What a waste of a life.
The portions are generous – it was an incredible feed, and we washed it all down with a glass of Veuve Clicquot (served by the glass for €14).
No prizes for guessing where the Olympia Panto crowd will be chowing down between shows this Christmas.
The Wild Duck Live Music Venue is open seven days a week from breakfast until late.