It may have taken a bus journey from Ashbourne, a brand new coat for Rebecca and a borrowed umbrella to combat the wettest day in several weeks, but the destination made our travels on Sunday more than worthwhile. That’s right, it was time for the very first ever Taste of Ranelagh Festival! And, in fact, my first visit to a food festival in Dublin outright. Bearing this in mind, writing about one is something I’ve never done before, so I apologise in advance if I’m a little shaky on the details or mechanical in describing it all (and for the delay, my laptop died a death during the week and I amn’t typing this out on my phone). Of course, another way of looking at it is as a practice run for the Taste of Dublin Festival in June! Regardless, it was an excellent start to what looks sure to become another great addition to Dublin’s growing food scene.
Of course – as any of you have no doubt heard me say a few times before – Ranelagh is already something of a foodie’s dream on the best of weekends. Restaurants, delicatessens, the Ranelagh Village market; all of these things make it worth visiting day and night, nearly 24/7. To cope with the extra volume on Sunday, a marquee was drafted in and set up next to the village market itself. Hand in glove almost, as the crowd spilling out would immediately be greeted by stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables and a range of cakes still warm from the oven. That's only to name a select few as well.
Speaking of the crowd, it completely exceeded my and everyone else’s expectations. Vastly so! The festival began at twelve, an within an hour the line to get into the marquee for just a handful of bite-size tasters from each restaurant involved was already stretching out onto the street. Roll on another two hours (not to mention handful of showers that drove off quite a few of the colder foodies!) and it was still a battle to get inside, never mind jostling for the food itself.
On offer were several bite size dishes from some of Ranelagh’s more popular restaurants, and one or two of the lesser known ones. The biggest name in the marquee was Tribeca, who served up a rather wholesome West African chicken curry. Immediately afterwards you were hit with a one-two of chicken biryani from Punjab Balti, and a refreshing bar larb gai salad by Diep Noodle Bar’s chef.
The larb gai in particular stood out; minced chicken with lemongrass, select spices, scallion and rice, each portion served in a leaf of iceberg lettuce. The chicken biryani, meanwhile, came accompanied by a delightful raita that turned a dish I’d normally avoid into a fantastic and creamy affair.
Also on offer was pizza from Antica Veniza, Paula Coyne’s sumptuous cupcakes and fresh smoked salmon with miniature blinis provided by the village market’s seafood stall. Cocktails were also provided by a handful of nearby pubs, and even the local Spar chipped in with their own stand, serving wine and various nibbles. Despite the wait involved, it was an all round entertaining as everybody involved was keen to show off exactly what they could do, and how the visitors themselves could do it as well!
In addition to the food on demand, those who survived the line to get any were – if also lucky enough to retain a seat at the marquee’s end – treated to several cooking demonstrations that included home-made ravioli by the fantastically named Marco and Paulo of Pinocchio restaurant, and Indian cooking at the hands of Punjab Balti. Because of the crowd build-up we decided only to stay for only the first. This, however, may or may not be an excuse to cover up the fact that we left the tent without realising that skipping the queue to get back in wouldn’t exactly have looked very good, but I stand by it. Regardless, we did get to vote in a competition to decide on Ranelagh’s best restaurant, chef and individual dish presented at the festival. The latter two awards went to Diep Noodle Bar, while the former is still a mystery to me. Put that down to bad food journalism on my part, but like I said this is my first time at writing about a food festival.
At the end of the day, my only disappointment was that the Gourmet Burger Company – who were billed on the event’s website – were a mysterious no-show. Either that or the marquee proved too small to accommodate everybody at the same time and we just weren’t around for long enough to see them! But given how much of a draw the event turned out to be, I’ve no doubt that the scale of it can be expanded upon next year. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have a little more experience at writing about festivals too. For now though, that's one down and any number to go; the summer is still young and there's plenty of eating left to do folks!