For the second year in a row, I popped along to the Taste of Dublin in the Iveagh Gardens yesterday at the kind invitation of the organisers. As soon as it kicked off, the sun came out and the event’s enjoyability was notched up a level. With live music and entertainment, there’s always a very enjoyable ambience at Taste; it’s an interesting way to sample some of Dublin’s best restaurants and check out some of Ireland’s food producers; and you can have a few tipples as well.
But there’ll be plenty of other sites and newspapers reviewing Taste this weekend. I assume that CheapEats readers want to know if it’s value for money. As with last year, tickets cost about €28.50, although you can still pick up Friday lunch tickets for €15 plus a €3.50 booking fee. There’s almost 20 Dublin restaurants taking part this year, including Chapter One, Bon Appetit, Diep le Shaker, Pichet, and Venu Brasserie, each offering a sample “signature dish” for between €5 and €8. There’s also many wine, beer and drink sellers, all keen to sell you a reasonably decent glass for between €3 and €6.
My friend Sarah and I were keen to neck as many free samples as we could – eminently possible with cheese, chocolate, and sausages, but not so easy when it came to boozing: the wine sellers were guarding their bottles with zeal. After stuffing our faces with freebies – I especially recommend a trip to the Superquinn tent where they will hopefully continue to be generous with their sausage and cheese samples – we found our bellies filling faster than we planned.
But since when has being full an excuse for not eating? After a browse around the Iveagh Gardens, we decided to try out Conrad Gallagher’s Salon de Saveur restaurant. The big man himself was on hand to meet and greet curious diners, and the signature dish we tried – Roasted Scallops with a duck confit, mango coulis, and a foie gras lollipop – was really brilliant. Yes, it looked like Gallagher had just decided to just throw all the fancy foods at us and hope that we were blindly impressed, but it worked. I’ll definitely try out the Aungier Street restaurant while it’s still around.
We also tried the China Sichuan, which is due to reopen soon. Although I really enjoyed the chicken salad, remarking on the quality of the meat and the subtleness of the sesame dressing, I wished I’d gone for a hot dish instead. Highlight of the day, once again, was the Saddle Room’s steak frites and chips: a perfect piece of meat with thin, well-seasoned chips.
Time flew by and all of a sudden our lift Philip was here to pick us up. We brought him a portion of the Saddle Room’s steak and chips, which he duly inhaled. All in all, we spent about five hours pottering about and had a very enjoyable day. Still, as Jean pointed out last year, Taste is really more of a treat than a bargain. Even if you just went for two signature dishes, you’d be hard pressed to leave only €50 lighter. Add in some more purchases from the stalls and a few drinks, and you could spend anything up to €70 – fine if you have it. Still, it’s not too bad for four enjoyable hours in the sun, especially if you appreciate good food and outdoor fun, and you can come home with some good bargains from the stalls.