Updated for 2017! For ten years I managed to avoid Taste of Dublin, I knew it was on, I knew where, and convinced myself that it wasn’t worth visiting and not to bother. However, in year 10 I was invited along as a guest of the organisers to check it out. This gave me the opportunity to head on in and see if it was worth the admission price, what’s on offer, and to figure out if it’s worth your while to head along this year (year 12).
The Ticket Price
The cheapest tickets you can buy directly online are €17.50 per person and these are available for the Thursday and Friday afternoon sessions. I have to say I found these afternoon sessions to be the most enjoyable, especially when the weather is good. Regardless of which day or time you elect to visit the Iveagh Gardens, make sure you buy your tickets online. It’s far more expensive at the gate on the day.
The Iveagh Gardens are just off Harcourt Street, near the LUAS line. Make your way to the St Stephen’s Green area on public transport and then walk up. The closest parking nearby is the St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre/College of Surgeons carpark. It’s far better value to get public transport, and anyway if you decide to sample some alcohol you wouldn’t want to drive home anyway.
What Does Your Ticket Get You, Really?
When the sun is shining, this is one of the most perfect places to while away an afternoon or evening. There’s plenty of cracking live music, areas to sit and chat, and yes, there is food that’s free to sample. It’s the tasting plates and alcohol you mainly have to pay for, but there are oodles of producers trying to get you to taste their items with samples on offer.
There are free cookery demonstrations in the Electrolux Theatre. It’s a first-come-first-served situation when it comes to seats but you can benefit from brilliant masterclasses from the likes of Neven Maguire, Stuart O’Keeffe, Rachel Allen, and more. This year the theme is “Flavours of the World” so there are a number of chefs demonstrating who don’t generally cook in Ireland, and they bring a flavour of their adopted countries to the mix.
There will be wine and beer masterclasses, skills masterclasses, and all of these need to be booked in advance. Figure out which you really, really want to do and make a beeline for that area as soon as you arrive to make sure you get your booking.
I’m hesitating here because I’m reluctant to let you in on this little secret! There are a couple of ways of getting some really lovely meals without having to shell out a thing at Taste of Dublin.
Visit the Natural Bakery for a free bread making demonstration & tasting.
Come to the Neven Maguire and Flogas Ireland Taste Experience to see Neven cooking live and the Flogas team might just have some tasty bites to share.
Also, Electrolux have a ‘Make Life Delicious’ area hosted by Lynda Booth’s Dublin Cookery School. Again, you’ll need to book in very early to get a spot. If you do get a booking you’ll get to cook at a masterclass with one of Ireland’s top chefs and eat your resulting dish at the end of the cookery session. My best advice here is to go there first, as soon as you enter, to book your place.
The Florin Debate
You can only buy florins at Taste of Dublin, each florin is roughly equivalent to €1, and this is the currency of choice for food and drink at Taste of Dublin. The problem with these florins is that you have to spend them on the day, and you can’t exchange them back for cash if you don’t use them up. Some tasting dishes from the participating restaurants were priced as low as 4 florins, and some were as expensive as 8 florins. As I recall, the florins books are at least €10 so you can see where these tokens can become quite fiddly, and you might end up with some unused cash which could leave a bad taste in your mouth.
My best advice to you is to hold off on buying florins straight away, there are plenty of stands distributed around the Iveagh Gardens and this gives you a chance to assess what you want to spend your money on before you invest in the tokens. Also once the festival officially opens, the price for each dish is freely available so you can research the prices before you even get there (if you’re so inclined).
Will You Need Cash?
Some of the food producers are selling products for cash so again, consider what you want to spend your money on before you go looking to use up your cash on florins. There will be at least one mobile cash machine on site anyway so you won’t be stuck.
If you decide to visit Taste of Dublin this year, then you’ll probably see me there. I’ll be working with at the Neven Maguire and Flogas Taste Experience area. Do come and say hello!
Disclosure: I visited Taste of Dublin as a guest of the organisers in 2015, however my opinions are my own and reflect my impressions as a paying visitor on a budget. This post was not required or requested of me in exchange for my attendance at Taste of Dublin. I will be at Taste of Dublin for the duration of the festival this year (as I was last year), but I’m under no obligation to mention this.
Aldi did have a restaurant on site the past 2 years but there isn’t one there this year. In its place is the ‘Food For Thought’ theatre where you can catch talks on all kinds of food issues. Well worth checking out.