Wednesday 7 May 2014

Enchanting Dining Experience: Secret Garden Dublin

Blog update: The Secret Garden Dublin was a marketing stunt by Lidl Ireland and the secret was revealed on the second last day of the event after I had written this blog post. Everything on the menu was purchased in Lidl and all the profits went to Lidl's charity partner, Barretstown, a residential camp founded by Paul Newman in 1994 providing therapeutic recreation programmes for children with serious illnesses and their families. Well done, I was seriously impressed!

Once upon a time I found myself eating in a dreamy garden in the heart of Temple Bar, listening to great tunes played on the piano and enjoying a 6 course tasting menu for only €20. Sounds unreal huh? It’s true though, so let me tell you all about my experience at Secret Garden Dublin.

Two final year culinary arts students Harry Colley and Cúán Greene from Dublin Pop Up have brought us the coolest dining experience, a pop-up restaurant from the 5th to the 9th of May serving lunch and dinner under the canopies of Meeting House Square.

I attended the 8.30pm dinner sitting not really knowing what to expect. The menu looked interesting and unusual, I was very much looking forward to it.

I couldn’t believe the look of the place, it was decorated with so much attention to detail: ivy on the gates, grass, beautiful flower centrepieces, a glittering chandelier, colourful umbrellas hanging above our heads and the coolest vintage airstream parked at the side.

We were greeted and brought to your seats where a soft purple blanket awaited us as well as fresh bread on the tables.

The first dish was a mackerel ceviche with linseed crisps, sweet potato, pickled ginger and a zingy chilled soup poured over the dish from a tea pot at the table. This was wonderfully tangy and refreshing.

The evening grew darker and started raining but we were dry under the canopy and the setting became even more atmospheric.

The second course was an unusual take on the Bloody Mary: crunchy vodka macerated pieces of celery, sun-dried tomatoes and crispy grissini that contrasted with the textures of the flavoursome tomato foam and tomato water snow. This was lovely but there was almost too much of it as it was quite rich.

The baked potato was excellent: crisp skin, slow cooked egg yolk, sour cream butter topped with potato foam and chives. This was gooey and delicious.

The sirloin steak dish was succulent: the beef was 'melt in the mouth' tender, cooked rare and served with a big dollop of smooth béarnaise sabayon, cress and slightly piquant red pepper infused rice.

Next was the lamb dish: a small piece leg of lamb and slow cooked lamb which was rolled in malt crumb. There was also parsnip, roast garlic and an almond, olive oil and whiskey sauce with it. This was a very well executed dish with robust flavours.

We rounded off this feast with a modern interpretation of the Swiss roll: a disc of strawberry and jam jelly, basil and chocolate mousse with little chunks of chocolate brownie. 

All of this for €20 including wine, this was certainly the foodie bargain of the year. The food was inventive, the service attentive and the surroundings were just heavenly.

The Secret Garden is fully booked for both lunch and dinner services but if they get any cancellations they'll be announced on their Twitter and Facebook. I'd watch out for their next events as their Secret Garden certainly made an impression!

Secret Garden Dublin
Dublin Pop Up