Jun 152012
 

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board responsible for forging links between Irish producers and potential customers around the world. As well as showcasing excellent Irish produce, Bord Bia also aim to develop markets for Irish suppliers and bring the taste of Irish food to more tables world-wide.

During our 2 day visit, we were taken out for lunch and dinner at a number of local restaurants.

ElyCollage

My favourite of the three was Ely Gastro Pub located on Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s Docklands.

Ely (and sister venues Ely Brasserie and Ely Wine Bar) are owned by Erik and Michelle Robson who source as much as they can from their own family farm in County Clare. The rest is sourced locally, with strong focus on seasonality and quality.

The pub has an outside terrace that would be just lovely on a sunnier day. Sadly, though we visited at the end of May, we were met with rain and cold winds. Inside was warm and dry though, with high ceilings and elegant modern design.

The Guinness bread served with our drinks was absolutely fantastic, sweet and moist and wonderful with salted butter. For my lunch I chose the day’s special, a fillet of salmon cooked to perfection, with crispy skin and moist flesh over a seafood bisque and lightly cooked vegetables. Pete’s burger with "haystack onions", Bandon vale cheddar and bourbon BBQ sauce was enormous and bursting with flavour. Sides such as giant onion rings, chips served with aioli and green beans were very good.

What I liked was the combination of excellent food, friendly service and an attractive and comfortable setting.

 

LCollage

On our first evening, we dined at L Mulligan Grocer in the Arbour Hill area of Dublin.

This was a much more casual kind of venue, and our group took three tables with bench seating on the raised level towards the back. The menus were presented within old hardback books and a scrabble board "reserved" sign made us smile.

Although the food was pretty good and service was friendly, it was also very slow and there were a number of mistakes in orders served to at least two of the three tables, resulting in some people almost finishing their mains before others were served. Pete’s scotch egg starter was good. My potted crab was OK – a small portion of only white crab meat, with a very thick layer of butter on top, there wasn’t much flavour, though the crab was no doubt fresh. Mains were better, with some great quality sausages and steak.

The drinks menu was particularly impressive, with a really long list of Irish craft beers on draft and in bottles, not to mention a huge selection of Irish and international whiskies.

 

DubWineRoomsCollage

The Dublin Wine Rooms include a wine bar and a restaurant. In the wine bar, we had fun using the specialist Enomatic serving system to try tasting, half glass or full glass measures of the many bottles available. Staff were very helpful in suggesting wines to try according to our tastes. We were also invited to sample a range of Irish cheeses with the wines.

Upstairs in the restaurant, we enjoyed excellent starters and mains. Pete’s parsnip and honey soup was one of the best we’ve tasted and my quail and lentil starter was excellent. Steaks and kangaroo mains were also delicious. The big let down came with desserts, which were mediocre; a shame given the great impression made by the savoury courses.

 

All three of our dining experiences showcased the excellent quality of Irish produce and brought home to us that Dublin really is a great destination for a food and drink lover.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bord Bia and of Ely Gastropub, L Mulligan Grocer and Dublin Wine Rooms.

Jun 132012
 

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, to attend Bloom 2012.

A bustling gardening and food show held in Dublin’s enormous Phoenix Park, Bloom is now in its 6th year and we quickly understood why it’s become so popular.

bloom2

My biggest criticism of RHS Chelsea, which I attended last year, was that visitor numbers were so high it was extremely hard to see anything. The crowds at each show garden were so deep that it routinely took 20 minutes or longer to slowly work one’s way to the front in order to be able to actually see the garden before guilt about the crowd behind resulted in shuffling away again a few moments later.

At Bloom, there were plenty of happy visitors but no unpleasant crowds and we were able to really admire the many show gardens. These were beautiful and varied from a traditional front garden with a bicycle outside (complete with strawberry plants in the handlebar basket) to the modern white garden room with bubble swing to the unusual small garden with red metal plant sculptures to a wildlife meadow with a purple salmon stream to a modern urban landscape with graffiti tunnel and an eagle made from recycled drinks cans.

Another highlight was the enormous walled kitchen garden with vegetable beds in absolutely immaculate condition, not a weed in sight. Around the edges were displays of vintage gardening equipment. I found the planting and upkeep of this area inspirational.

For those wanting to indulge in some retail therapy, there was a vast selection of relevant stalls, both outdoors and in the large marquee tent, selling everything from seeds and seedlings to ride-on lawnmowers to wrought iron trellises and much more.

Bloom1

The other side of Bloom was the Bord Bia food village, showcasing the best of Irish produce. Everything from smoked fish to fresh pies and quiches to dried seaweed to artisan cheeses to cakes to packaged snacks to cakes and biscuits to juices and beers… the selection was huge and I enjoyed chatting to many of the stall holders. That’s me, above, with the man from Sam’s Potatoes!

Had the show been nearer home, I’d have purchased a tonne to bring home. As it was, I contented myself with a packet of strawberry, mango and sencha tea from Kingfisher Tea. Can’t wait to break into that!

 

The show also had a number of other attractions for visitors including an entertainments stage featuring an eclectic range of musical acts, a cookery theatre with demonstrations from famous chefs, activities for younger children and a humanitarian and environmental zone where you could learn more about bee keeping, the tree council, bird watching and wildlife.

Bloom was an absolute delight to visit and I’d definitely recommend planning your trip to Dublin to coincide with Bloom in future years.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Bord Bia and Bloom In The Park.

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