What’s that smoke over D4 about? It’s the Big Grill Festival

Barbecue experts from around the world are converging on Dublin’s Herbert Park for a four-day celebration of cooking over fire. Here’s all you need to know

Hot wings and chilli eating competitions are a popular feature at  the Big Grill Festival.

Hot wings and chilli eating competitions are a popular feature at the Big Grill Festival.

 

What is it?

The fires are lit for the sixth annual Big Grill Festival in Herbert Park, Dublin 4, with more than 20,000 visitors expected through the gates. It is Europe’s largest barbecue festival and runs and from noon on Thursday through until Sunday evening. Some of the biggest names in barbecue from the US, London and Ireland will be on hand cooking over live fire, taking part in demonstrations and discussions, along with a great drinks and entertainment line up. Tickets for Saturday are almost completely sold out, and Friday is going to be busy too.

How do I get tickets and what are the opening hours?

Tickets are available from the website or on the gate (except for sold out days). Opening hours are noon to 10pm (9pm on Sunday).

What’s on the menu?

There will be more than 20 restaurants on-site, and the one rule is everything must be cooked over live fire, no electrics or gas will be used. The rotating guest chef s include Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibsons in the US. On Saturday he will be serving barbecue chicken with Alabama white sauce, smoked hominy and cheese.

Chef Grainne O’Keefe from Clanbrassil House in Dublin has joined forces with Lee Tiernan from Black Axe Mangal in London. They’re doing grilled Irish beef, hash brown fries, ginger and chilli salsa and anchovy mayo and it’s available all weekend.

Mark O’Brien is back with an Irish seafood menu Thursday to Sunday, including fresh mussels and oysters. Paul Flynn and Fingal Ferguson join the action on Sunday with smoked lamb flatbread, Yemeni slaw and zhug. In residence all four days will be Lil Portie, Lucky Tortoise, Bowls by Kwanghi, Box Burger and more. There will be some vegan and veggie dishes, but the variety is fairly meat-focused.

Andy Noonan’s Fowl Play barbecue will be packed with smoking hot meat and veg.
Andy Noonan’s Fowl Play barbecue will be packed with smoking hot meat and veg.

What about drinks?

The Big Grill prides itself on having one of the best craft drinks line up at any Irish festival and this year is no different. Green Man Wines join for the first time, pouring all sorts of artisan, organic and biodynamic wines to match the food on offer.

When it comes to craft beer, cider, sours and low and no ABV drinks, you’ll be spoilt for choice with bars from Franciscan Well, Pilsner Urquell, The Bridge 1859, The White Hag, Rascals, Kinnegar Brewing, Eight Degrees, Black Donkey, Hopfully, Wicklow Wolf, Porterhouse, O’Haras, Dan Kellys, Dot Brew, Mac Ivors Cider, Scotts Cider, Sullivans Brewing Company, Trouble Brewing, Wicklow Brewery, Kildare Brewing Company, Boyne Brewhouse (Harvest Distillery).

Cocktails and distilling fans can look forward to drinks from the Jameson Experience, Schweppes 1783, Dingle Gin and Mil Gin.

What are the Offside Dinners?

Theses are intimate, private dining experiences with a focus on nose-to-tail eating, cooked on the parrilla grill alongside carefully curated drinks. UK foraging and cookery school Hunter Gather Cook present A Wild Feast, using an array of locally foraged ingredients and wild game, paired with wild cocktails and natural wines. New Yorker Nick Solares will present All Good Things Come In Time..., a journey through dry-aged steak, and asador expert Rama Basilio will present Parrilla, a four-course journey through Argentine asado cooking. These are an extra cost on top of the entry ticket; some are sold out, but you can buy some tickets here.

What about entertainment?

Bastecamp, hosted by food writer Dee Laffan, will the smoking hub of the festival where barbecue experts get hands-on for heated chats and in-depth demonstrations, including BBQ Basics with John Relihan; The Joy of Offal with Lee Tiernan; Beer Tasting with Hellfire Brew Club; Butchery with Rick Higgins; Genevieve Taylor’s Veggie BBQ Masterclass; Hunter Gather Cook’s Firecraft, Wild Cooking and Deer Butchery, and world champion Chris Lilly will divulge the secrets of competition barbecue.

On the main stage, the wildly popular eating challenges are back. You can watch brave souls who think they can take the heat live on stage every day, with competitive chilli eating at 4pm and Franks Hot Wing challenges at 7pm, hosted by a very enthusiastic DJ BBQ. There is music across the weekend from prYmary colours, TBL8 brass band and Bodytonic DJs and Sing For Your Dinner Karaoke every evening.

Although there will be some vegetarian and vegan food on offer, the focus is firmly on barbecued meat
Although there will be some vegetarian and vegan food on offer, the focus is firmly on barbecued meat

Can I bring my kids?

Children under 12 years are admitted free, and there will be children’s entertainment on Saturday and Sunday, including festijeux, ReCreate, face painting and more.

What else do I need to know?

Smokins are the festival currency, these can be bought on-site by cash or card. Ticket price covers entry and all the entertainment. Food and drink are purchased separately. Dishes start from around six Smokins. Craft beer is from 4 smokins for a glass and six for a pint. Long drinks and cocktails start from six smokins. Make sure you spend all your smokins, as they are non-refundable.

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