An Irish friend of mine recently told me about his local Chinese take-out, or take-away. It’s called The Wild Garden, and according to my friend Justin it’s “the best Chinese in Dublin, by a mile.” The thing is, Justin tells me, The Wild Garden has been shut down on six, six separate occasions for failing to meet the requisite health and safety standards. He tells me that instead of an actual menu board on the wall, they have a carefully torn brown paper bag, and on it the menu is written in black marker, and the bag is held up by four strips of Scotch tape, or Sellotape. He says that despite this, it’s still “the best Chinese in Dublin.” Apparently the take-away has no windows, and is generally occupied by “a bunch of yunfellas, probably drug dealers. Can’t say that with a hundred percent certainty, but they’re dodgy as fuck.” The reason The Wild Garden was shut down the first time was because of a rat infestation. After a couple of months—much to Justin’s relief—it re-opened. Then, after a customer claimed they’d found an insect in their 3-in-1 (a “ride of a dinner,” I’m told: chips, rice and curry) The Wild Garden was investigated and closed for a six month period, during which Justin had to eat in “that shithole PJ’s Chipper and Chinese.” I reasoned with Justin, “Well, at least they have windows and a menu, and they’ve never been shut down before,” to which Justin replied, “Yeah, but it’s not the same. And the colour of the sauce isn’t right.” As a mark of respect, Justin—who is a forklift driver—wore a black armband to the warehouse for the duration of the closure. It was even reported that a group of males aged 16-45 held a vigil outside the grouping of shops where the Chinese is located. Some of the youths whose office had been closed along with the take-away claimed that (I’m paraphrasing here) as a de facto subsidiary of the parent company, they’d unjustly lost a percentage of their business, but hadn’t the necessary clout to mount a significant opposition to the closure. In their words, “It’s a load of bollix.”
After The Wild Garden opened once again, there was widespread celebration throughout the townland in which the Chinese is situated, and some people claimed that the same group who’d held the vigil had engaged in a wild and topless celebration while rallying cars through the housing estate. A number of youths were also seen riding illegally-owned horses, although whether or not they were partaking in the celebrations or were just “hanging around” remains unclear. As for the number of fires started in the local park, no one can be sure if these were also part of the jamboree.
Justin has informed me that he’s been left “in a jock: serious ring-burn” after many evenings of indulging in The Wild Garden’s gastronomic delights, but maintains that it’s “the best Chinese in Dublin.”
So, I decided to visited it for myself before I left Dublin for good, to see what all the fuss is about. How could this place, with its rat infestations and its contaminated food and drug dealing denizens, be a place from which the locals would wish to eat?
After finding the estate using the car’s GPS, and after weaving around kids on bikes, and avoiding infants running wildly across the roads without any sign of their parents, and after having a ball kicked off the side of my vehicle and after guiding the car over steep ramps and by a brown and white, withered old nag which was tied to a lamppost, I parked up outside the small family of shops—most of which were boarded up—and where The Wild Garden existed at the end of the row of one-story buildings.
Upon my arrival, I was asked by a hooded youth “What’s the story?” which confused me greatly. When I entered the Chinese take-away, I found the menu Justin had told me about. There was a counter which went from wall-to-wall, and apart from the paper bag menu, nothing else lined the walls or existed in the building except for a small poster which read “Spot the ball results,” and which was dated 7th May 1999. Behind the counter was a large, rotund gentleman who didn’t greet me upon my arrival. I asked him for a 3-in-1, which Justin had recommended to me seeing as we don’t have them where I’m from. I paid and said thank you to the stout gentleman, who didn’t respond. As I sat and waited for my food, I grew a little nervous. I thought I’d be immediately unnerved by the youths outside, who’d also followed me inside after I’d ordered, but it was only when one of them began popping gum and staring at me unflinchingly as I waited that I began to feel mildly intimidated. I also wondered whether this young individual was, in fact, one of Satan’s spawns. He didn’t blink once.
Eventually my order arrived in a brown paper bag—the same kind as the one they used for the menu—and I left the Chinese at a hurried pace, as one of the youths called from behind “The state of ya!”
When I got home I tucked into the amalgamation of white rice, chunky chips and yellowish-brown curry sauce. Once I was finished I called Justin. I told him, “Well, it wasn’t bad.” He responded, “Not bad? It’s the best Chinese in Dublin!” And then I told him that—seeing as this was my one and only Dublin take-away experience—I agreed with him. It was, in fact, the best Chinese in Dublin.