Peter and I attended the Taste of Dublin Festival yesterday, at the generous invitation of the organisers, to have a look at the treats on offer. We had a lovely evening, tipping around the Iveagh Gardens in the sunshine, picking up lots of tasty little samples and enjoying the general ambience. We know what you guys want to know though: is it good value for money?
I’d have to say that the Taste of Dublin is more of a treat than a bargain. Tickets start at around €28 (although there were specials for €15), which covers entry into the festival. VIP tickets are also available for €82, for those who’ve completely lost their minds. You do get lots of freebies on entry: loads of samples of food and booze are available, including some that you can take home, and you can also attend cooking demonstrations with well-known chefs. When it comes to meals, however, you do have to fork out again.
The food setup is quite nifty: top Dublin restaurants offer little taster dishes, ranging from €5 to €8 in price, which apparently represent their signature dishes. Do keep in mind that the dishes are generally quite small, and if you intend to have dinner at the festival, you would need to purchase at least three dishes to ensure that you’re properly fed, leaving you very little change out of fifty bucks.
Peter and I tried to be strategic with our dishes, trying as many different restaurants as possible. Here’s a quick rundown of where we ate, with dishes and verdicts:
Town Bar & Grill: Crab Salad with Apple Jelly. Small portion, but tasty crab. The apple jelly tasted precisely of nothing.
- China Sichuan: Tea Smoked Duck. The duck was excellent, with a rich and complex smoked flavour. Why did it come with a tower of boring white rice?
- Locks: Roast Lamb Meatloaf with Harissa and Hummus. The disappointment of the evening. It was perfectly fine but as Peter said, like something you would get in a kebab place and not at all like what you would expect from an acclaimed restaurant like Locks. There was no trace of harissa in the sample that we got.
- Diep Le Shaker: Stir Fried Chicken with Veg, Chilli and Light Soya. My first impression on tasting this was SALT! but then the other, delicate and delicious flavours came through. Very good indeed (if salty), with a lovely aroma of kaffir lime leaves, or possibly star anise…something subtle and aniseedy.
- The Saddle Room: Lobster Cocktail and Steak Frites with Bearnaise Sauce. The Steak Frites: WIN. Perfect crisp, melty chips, beautiful sweet bearnaise sauce, and a funny little lollipop of steak. Very very good indeed. The Lobster Cocktail was a bit underwhelming however, like a slightly fancy version of airplane food.
Other things that we really enjoyed: free Thai massage (amazing!) at the lovely Taste of Thailand stand, the Chilli Beer stand and the Lavazza coffee stand, where they were extremely generous with the samples.
Overall it’s generally a very pleasant and relaxed event, and very well suited to foodies: you do get the chance to try out small dishes from a number of really excellent restaurants. Be aware that it’s just quite a fancy and high-end event in general: there was more fake tan, blonde highlights and loafers there than I’ve seen in one place for quite a while. Our reader Will commented that he thought that just going directly to one of the above restaurants for a special offer lunch would be better value, and I have to say that this is a sensible alternative. But if you love food, outdoor fanciness and have a few quid to spare, you’ll probably really enjoy the Taste of Dublin.
Let us know if you head along to the festival this weekend, and your thoughts on it. And we’ll have a picture gallery later today, with snaps of many of the menus so you can see in advance what’s on offer.