Dance Food at the Project Arts Centre: A step in the tasty direction

Fiona Hallinan is a very interesting cook. You may have tasted her influence in the marvelous Dublin café Meet Me In The Morning, where she played a key role in creating their original menu. What makes this cook a little different from her peers is that she’s an artist and food is one of her media.

She’s interested in the spaces that overlap between food, hospitality and education. Her previous projects include the Concrete Tiki series in The Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham, the artist-run café at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios known as The Hare, which she ran alongside chef Katie Sanderson, and site-specific projects such as Heterodyne which has appeared in Paris, Istanbul and Wicklow.

Her latest pop-up is Dance Food, a café in Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar for the Dublin Dance Festival. The menu has been designed with festival performers and attendees in mind, but Dance Food is open to all. Her partner in culinary tap-dancing is chef, artist and curator Phillip McCrilly who comes to Dance Food from the fantastic Established Coffee in Belfast, bringing that café’s famed waffles in tow. McCrilly and Hallinan share a curiosity about food and hospitality’s role in art institutions.

“We wanted to create food that would make people feel zingy,” says Hallinan , as I tuck into a tray of her signature healthy food, full of the flavours that accompany fermentation, pickling and preservation cooking methods.


They’ve filled the space with furniture that already existed in the Project Arts Centre, such as transforming the seating banks in the theatre space into one long communal table. “We disinfected the seating banks first,” Hallinan carefully points out. Hallinan brought hanging tables from an installation she created for Gut Instinct, a show earlier this year in The Glucksman Gallery in Cork. They’re keeping things minimal on the menu as a reaction to the space, which has no kitchen. There are just two items on the menu, one sweet and one savoury priced at €10 each.

My savoury tray is filled with seasoned brown rice sprinkled with dukkah and topped with sweet baby leeks and umami powered tamari mushrooms. Zing abounds in the pickled radishes, fermented tomato salsa and sauerkraut. To drink, there is batch brew coffee (€2), tea (€1) and a turmeric and ginger tonic (€2). I’m not usually a fan of iced coffee but I trust Hallinan and McCrilly implicitly so I step out of my comfort zone and into the iced coffee with coconut milk and laced with powdered lucuma (€2), a Peruvian fruit noted for its health benefits. My bravery is rewarded and I really like the subtle sweetness brought about by the coconut milk.

The menu at Dance Food is nourishing yet vibrant, the type of food that could support a performer through a vigorous series of shows. I don’t plan on embarking on any cartwheels or pirouettes in the near future but I feel that with Hallinan and McCrilly’s fuel in my belly I certainly have more of a spring in my step.

Dance Food will have its final curtain call this week before the project dances off into the sunset. The café will be open on Saturday 27th for lunch from 12pm to 3pm and supper from 5pm to 8pm, and on Sunday 28th of May for supper only from 5pm to 8pm. They’re also hosting a pre-show dinner for Striptease on Saturday 27th of May .