Select: lunchtime markets kick dining al desko to the curb
Pop-up city markets continue to grow in popularity with workers sick of the same old soggy sandwiches
The Irish Village Markets Thursday market on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road
You can’t swing a bunch of organic mud-encrusted heirloom carrots these days without hitting a farmers’ market. And while they’re a great way to sink €50 and laze around on a weekend morning, they don’t really cut the (French, truffle-infused whole-grain) mustard on a weekday when you’re on the hunt for some lunch. Step forward the pop-up lunchtime markets that have slowly been colonising open spaces around the city to feed long queues of hungry workers.
Irish Village Markets operates eight locations around Dublin city. Des Valelly and Tara Dalton have been running markets for more than 10 years and currently have lunchtime events on Tuesdays at Stillorgan Luas stop (from April to October); Wednesdays at Eastpoint Business Park, Spencer Dock and the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre on Grand Canal; Thursdays on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road, Blanchardstown corporate park, Merrion Square (from the start of August) and Fridays on the Grand Canal at Percy Place and Sandyford Industrial Estate.
While weather can affect numbers, business is booming, with more than 5,500 people coming to Sandyford for lunch every Friday, according to Valelly. The markets begin from 11am or 11.30am, with stallholders serving food until approximately 2.30pm. There’s live music (including DJs in Sandyford) with a wide variety of food on offer: each market has an average of 15 vendors, with many stall holders visiting multiple locations. Kanum Thai, which serves generous portions of creamy beef Massaman curry (€8) or traditional pad thai noodles (€8), can be found at all of the markets, as can Say Fish, which serves handcut seaweed salted chips and sustainable haddock or prawns in breadcrumbs (both €8), and some good sauces such as lemon cajun, black garlic truffle mayonnaise or garlic mayo with wild chives.
Some of the more popular vendors, according to Valelly, include the meat-centric Gourmet Kitchen, which uses meat from Dublin butchers FX Buckley for its flame-grilled dry aged steak sandwiches (€7.50 or €9 with chips) and a three-cheese Philly Steak sandwich, with mascarpone, Parmesan and Cashel Blue. The Paella Guys, with their enormous trays of meat and fish paella and Moorish meatballs (€6.50 for small, €8 for larger or half and half) are popular, as are Burger Republic, Kerala Kitchen and Grub Hub. There’s a growing trend for healthier food, Valelly says, “the demand for meat is down, and salad bars and vegan food are becoming more popular”. He points to the success of newcomers Shoots and Roots as evidence of this - their vegan food is selling well, including dishes such as a cous-cous, black-eyed bean and almond burger (€4) or salads such as fennel, rocket, almonds and courgette with tarragon and lemon served by the half tub (€3) or tub (€6). See irishvillagemarkets.ie
Just off Harcourt Street, there’s a market every Thursday from 10am to just after 2pm, operated by Irish Farmers Markets. This covered market is tucked underneath the arches of the old Harcourt Railway Station (entrance is on Hatch Street). Here you’ll find a small number of stalls, including the ubiquitous Paella Guys, German bratwurst by Frank’s German Sausages, Zero Zero wood-fired pizza and more. There’s also live music. See irishfarmersmarkets.ie
In the city centre, the Coppinger Row outdoor food market has dwindled in the past year, with only The Cupcake Bloke standing strong at the moment – though more traders are expected to return soon. For now, you can get your cupcake and scone fix every Thursday and Friday between 10.30am and 4.30pm on the laneway between South William Street and Clarendon Street (at the side of the Powerscourt Town Centre). Expect all the standard cupcakes, plus unusual flavours such as chocolate with fennel (€2) or savoury scones, such as black pudding and apple, served with chutney and butter (€2).
Picnic on the Plaza lunchtime market has recently launched on Thursdays at George’s Quay, Dublin 2 (at the back of the Ulster Bank Building/Tara Street Dart Station). It sits in a sheltered courtyard alongside the Dart bridge, with picnic benches to eat your lunch.
There are up to seven stalls at the moment, with plans for more. They include Meera Foods, which serves Indian curries such as paneer curry and coconut curry. Juice Heads offers salads and vegan food, such as a hemp and chia burger with spinach, cucumber, spouts and avocado (€7). It also serves fresh juices and salads. Men at Wok has a hot stand with Thai chickpea and sweet potato curry with an Indian paratha and bottle of water for €6.50 or packs of tuna or chicken sushi for€5. Dave’s Woodfired Pizzas has a food truck cooking up thin-based pizzas to order in less than five minutes. The tomato, mozzarella, baked ham and mushroom (€7) is a good option.
Cocobrew has a cute little VW van converted into a coffee shop, serving the usual barista favourites and cocobrew coffee – a blend of Arabica coffee, MCT oil and cacao butter (think bullet proof coffee) – for €3.70. Organised by Pete Ainsley of Sráid Bia and 1Events, there are plans to expand to other locations this summer. See sraidebia.com.
So what’s next for these markets? Des Valelly of Irish Village Markets predicts “food trucks will be the next big thing. They’re already big in the US and now they’re coming here.” Gourmet Kitchen has a converted ambulance, while Burger Republic is working on an American-style school bus to serve their food.
“We’re going to see more food trucks and less pop-ups . . . better quality ingredients and more quirky ideas. They’re all competing against each other so the quality is improving all the time.”
– Rachel Collins