Monday 24 June 2013

Taste of Dublin 2013

Taste of Dublin is a food and drink festival which takes place in the Iveagh Gardens during June each year. For a few days the place is filled with stands from Dublin restaurants, featuring dishes visitors can purchase and eat onsite. There are also lots of food and drink producer stands, masterclasses, chef demonstrations and live music.

The entrance tickets aren't cheap (€23.50 advance booking/ €28.50 onsite), don't include any food and are valid for a 4 hour session (12 to 4pm or 5.30 to 9.30pm). Cash isn't accepted once you're in, you need to purchase florins (1 Florin=1 euro) for buying food and drinks. The dishes are 'tapas size' and cost between €4 (not too many of those) and €7 (plenty of them).

I was fortunate to be invited by The Butler's Pantry on the Friday night as they were serving their hand made canapés throughout the weekend at the private Platinum Lounge. My friends and I were delighted to have access to the lounge and it was a real treat to have a table, away from the rain, sipping some champagne while enjoying lovely canapés. We were first brought the quinoa salad with Goatsbridge trout, orange, mint and feta served in a speckled bamboo cone, followed by a platter with 4 different types of canapés selected by executive chef Niall Hill. A chilled tomato and strawberry gazpacho with balsamic jelly was presented in a bamboo shoot. I absolutely love rillettes (of course I'm French) and was delighted to taste some Crowe’s Farm pork rillettes with rhubarb chutney and crackling. The sweet canapés were a gooseberry and hazelnut crumble with vanilla custard and the divine green tea and lemon pannacotta with pistachio brittle which was our favourite of the night.

The rain was pouring, so it wasn't very tempting to venture outside the lounge but we managed to have a look around at the different stands.

When I saw my favourite restaurant Pichet, I went for the crispy hens egg served with black pudding, peas and a wholegrain mustard (€6). The egg was cooked to perfection and delicious, you never get it wrong with Pichet really.

The Mint bar at The Westin was there selling some of their cocktails (€6 and €7), the atmosphere was lively, they had music and people were dancing, it was Friday night after all.

Next, I couldn't resist Il Primo's leek and 24 month aged parmesan risotto (€4), especially when you could see it being finished in the parmesan wheel just in front of you, with the damp weather this was the perfect warmer.

I also visited Taste of Dublin on the Sunday afternoon, being invited by French Wine Unlimited. This small company based in Dublin imports only French wines. You'll read about the manager Alain, soon in my French Foodies in Ireland series.

What we did to chose our food was to have a look around and see what people were eating to check if it was substantial for the price. I went for the fish and chips from Dylan hotel (€6), the lemon and thyme batter was tasty and the big chunky chips were pretty filling.

Mr. FFID went for 'man food' with the seared 35 day dry aged Hereford prime rump with béarnaise and twice cooked fries (€7) from the Chop House, the meat was tasty but the fries weren't great, I found it dear for what it was.

He also had a grilled sirloin of dry aged beef served on a Waterford Blaa with caramelised onion, gruyere and wild rocket (€6) from Brasserie Le Pont which was very tasty.

The scrumptious peanut butter parfait with chocolate mousse and peanut crunch from Pichet (€5) was my dessert of choice.

After lunch on the Sunday we decided it was better value to buy alcohol than food and I have to admit, I do like afternoon drinking. We had a few of those raspberry alcoholic ginger beers, which have a very unsexy name.  After this we went a little classier and had a few glasses of prosecco, I wasn't taking pictures anymore at that stage.

On Friday the weather was horrible and because there is no covered area, visitors were eating their dishes awkwardly while holding their umbrellas, squeezed in front of the food stalls to keep dry. On Sunday afternoon however, the weather was lovely, people were sitting on the grass listening to live music or lying down on big comfy bean bags, the atmosphere was great and it felt like a real summer festival.

Taste of Dublin is an expensive event but if you enjoy eating out and going to food events, can afford it, are lucky with the weather and bring good company, you'll enjoy it. Otherwise you might find the event a little "Celtic tiger' priced.

Here are a few tips if you consider going next year:

- Watch out for deals and competitions: early bird tickets, promotional codes, Twitter and Facebook competitions will save you a couple of euros so keep an eye on social media and deals websites a few weeks before the festival.
-Buying dishes: I'd advise to have a look around first, see what people around you are eating and even ask people if they're worth the money. If you throw yourself on the first tiny dish you see, you might regret it.
-Drinks aren't overpriced: I found alcohol worth the florins actually, so long as you don't mind drinking from plastic glasses. You could buy bottles of prosecco at a reasonable price, try cocktails that were cheaper than in town and sip lots of different wines.
-Free food samples: there are a few samples of free food at the different stalls but they aren't particularly gourmet options (fortune cookies, cheddar toasties, ham, chicken wings...) and you might stay hungry if you rely on those to fill up your belly.
-Bring rain gear: consider wellies as the ground gets pretty bad in the rain and bring umbrellas and rain ponchos, if it rains you have nowhere to go except if you have have a VIP ticket.
-Bring sun gear: I missed suncream, sunnies and a picnic blanket badly when I visited on Sunday.
-Children: in my opinion this isn't a family-orientated event; you won't find kids meals and there is little to keep them entertained.

Have you been to Taste of Dublin? What did you think?

Disclaimer: Mr. FFID and I were offered complimentary entrance tickets by The Butler's Pantry and French Wine Unlimited.  I gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my honest opinion.