Buffet food has always had a warm place in my heart. For all the criticism it receives for bringing out the worst in people’s gluttonous nature, in my view buffet restaurants still function as somewhat of a unifying force. Not only are they usually priced quite accessibly, but once you’re in, you have as much right to whatever you want as anyone else, no matter where you’re from or how much you earn. It’s quite a liberating feeling. For this reason, I was excited to hear of Wing’s World Cuisine’s opening last month on Wolfe Tone Street.
The first Irish outlet of the UK-owned restaurant group, Wing’s offers as much as you can eat of 150 different dishes. As the restaurant’s flashy front facade might suggest, Wing’s also aims to set itself above the standard buffet affair, aspiring to present authentic tastes from around the world in what its website describes as “casual dining at its best”. No doubt they are ambitious in this pursuit, as the impressive variety of foods are regularly stocked to serve up to 280 people in their expansive new premises. Prices are set at €9.95 for lunch and €18.95 for dinner, with a small increase to this cost on Saturdays, so clearly Wing’s aims to remain competitive in terms of cost as well as quality. However, Wing’s does not seem to prioritise cheap drinks, and follows in the line of many buffets that aim to make their profit through drinks not included in the set menu price.
I came across Wing’s World Cuisine through a promotional deal they were offering until the end of October in association with the local media brand, Dublin Live. As part of this offer, it stated that you simply needed to comment on a Facebook post, and you would receive 50% off your meal. This deal seems to have proven immensely popular, as there have now been over 13,000 comments made on this post, and this may have been why the restaurant was absolutely packed when I arrived there for lunch with a friend. The interior, which they describe on their website as “stunning”, is certainly noteworthy, although perhaps not in the way they had intended. The formidable room is lit up from the back with the glow of heated food shining out from stainless-steel containers. This is in contrast to the rest of the room, which is more of a dimly lit network of cage-like divisions, crammed with as much seating as possible.
Like in most buffets, you pay the set price before being seated in Wing’s, and for this were met by a member of staff at the reception who appeared to hold a managerial role. We requested a table for two, and mentioned the Dublin Live deal. This was met with an immediate look of displeasure from the member of staff, who grunted and made a hand gesture by way of telling us that we needed to show him the comments we made. Once he was shown this, the man was still unhappy as those comments weren’t sufficiently complimentary, and we were told instead to comment something along the lines of “amazing food” should we wish to redeem the offer. Thankfully, he eventually agreed to let us in at the discounted price, but the brief interrogation was not an especially casual start to our lunch.
We soon discovered that the managerial staff were also more than happy to shout at and argue with the waiting staff in front of customers if they were seen to slow down. Similarly, the staff preparing the desserts appeared to be given no support nor relief as the queues constantly grew for the different offerings.
Inarguably, Wing’s offers a great variety of food, but we soon found out that its quality varies just as much. Many options were either dry, cold, or overly gelatinous. Pork wraps were fun to assemble but didn’t have much in the way of taste. Ribs varied from quite palatable to tough pieces of rubber depending on which you got, and sweet chilli chicken, although certainly not the worst I’ve had, still suffered from a rather strange sliminess. The vegetarian options were limited mostly to potato-based foods, along with edamame and a small selection of the sushi. Where Wing’s really shone over its competitors was in its dessert section, which boasted a fried ice-cream bar, waffles and pancakes made on request, a range of scooped ice-cream flavours, and various sweets and pastries.
The overall result was a restaurant that championed efficiency and profitability over the wellbeing of the staff and customers alike, which is anything but a good recipe for “casual dining”. Although I left well-fed, the memories of an atmosphere that varied between tense and awkward have regrettably overshadowed those of any particular dishes which might have stood out.