Dining Scene Trends

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  unclepat 4 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #5000

    unclepat
    Participant

    Just to keep the forum alive, I thought I’d post a few random thoughts on dining trends in Ireland ( mainly Dublin it has to be said) at the moment.

    For me, the country is divided into Dublin City Centre and Rest of Ireland. DCC is booming right now as are small pockets of ROI. Everywhere else has stagnated into a mediocre, repititive dining scene that has made me give up reading restaurant reviews ( sorry Ernie!)

    There are a handful of genuinely good quality places doing everything from good coffee, sandwiches, cakes etc all the way up to high end gastronomy. They might make up 10% either end. The 80% in the middle however are pumping out depressing, samey, sub standard stuff. Most new places seem to look at what is on trend at the moment and try replicate it while casting their net wide in an attempt to please everyone.

    Some vague nonsense about dedication to sustainability and local provenenace appears to be a must ( eventhough a sizeable proportion of those who spout this buy the cheapest gear they can get their hands on regardless of where it comes from). A bit of Scandi seems to be en vogue also so expect foraging and coloured earthenware plates with smears of puree. However, just so the locals aren’t frightened away you will most probably also find prawns “Pil Pil” and “28 day dry aged sirloin”.

    With the exception of Fade St, I can’t remember the last time a new opening even remotely caught my attention. This is a sad refelction on the industry as there are no shortage of new openings. Maybe the market in Ireland likes that mid level mediocrity though as most of these places appear to be busy.

  • #24328

    Diapason
    Participant

    @unclepat wrote:

    Maybe the market in Ireland likes that mid level mediocrity

    That, sadly, is my view in a nutshell.

  • #24329

    unclepat
    Participant

    If this is really the case then I can’t blame the restaurants for giving the people what they want. Kevin Thornton said to me a while ago that he believes the restaurant scene in the 1980’s was better than it is today..less quantity more quality. I’m inclined to agree with him.

  • #24323

    redring
    Participant

    My memory of the eighties is really expensive restaurants like the Mirabeau and the Guinea Pig and unimaginative affordable places like Solomon Grundy’s and Paparazzi. I don’t remember many middle priced innovative restaurants around to be honest.

  • #24324

    unclepat
    Participant

    @redring wrote:

    I don’t remember many middle priced innovative restaurants around to be honest.

    Can’t think of many around at the moment either…

  • #24325

    Diapason
    Participant

    Yeah I was going to say “sounds like now” but I thought that might be a bit cynical. Still, if we’re doing this I might as well rant away, and simultaneously fall back on lazy stereotypes that I truly believe to be reasonably accurate in Ireland.

    I dunno, maybe I have a too-low opinion of my fellow Irish diners, but among my friends and acquaintances (educated, professional 30-somethings who still enjoy a bit of discretionary spending from their salary) people really do seem to fall into one of 2 camps:
    1) Suspicious of anything remotely unusual or anything that could be considered, god help us, “fancy”. “Why would you want to spend money on food when it can be used for pints anyway, sure?” Eating is cheating, right? Very wealthy 1)’s who are forced to go against type eat in Shanahan’s.
    2) Wants to be seen as a foodie, tells everyone about the Michelin-starred restaurant they were in recently that’s completely crap and overrated, buys most food for home consumption in Avoca, thinks Ottolenghi is God, treats food as a status symbol and/or fashion statement.

    I’m too old and move in the wrong circles to have anything resembling young “hipster” friends so I don’t know where the money is going there, but I assume it’s the Crackbirds of the world? In any case, the hipsters are just 2)’s in the making, urban rather than suburban.

    The 1)’s (and they are *legion*) are never going to keep innovative/interesting restaurants afloat, and if anything are an enormous drag back to safe, pile-em-high plates that your mammy would be proud of. In my experience, 1)’s are the norm, and they stretch across all the usual class divides of wealth, education level, etc. As a consequence, 1)’s define the dining scene in all but the largest population centres. They actively want the mid-level mediocrity mentioned earlier. If forced to go anywhere new, they’ll order the steak and report back to the troops that their local pub does it better. They might even be right about that.

    On the other hand, 2)’s will follow the zeitgeist (or at the very least, they’ll go wherever the Irish Times tells them to go) as far as discretionary spend allows. In large urban centres there might be enough 2)’s to keep innovation ticking over. However, innovation doesn’t require a food-loving population so much as it requires a population with cash. When the zeitgeist moves on or the cash dries up, restaurants in Ireland catering to a more adventurous diner end up closing, and it doesn’t matter how good they are. Once you’ve lost the 2)’s, there aren’t enough genuinely interested parties left to sustain the restaurant. From what I can see, the 2)’s in the Dublin suburbs have lost nearly all discretionary spend, and there’s no point trying to cater for such a minority now. It’s bleak, but there it is. Far better to cater to the 1)’s if you want to put bread on the table, and if you can wrap up “safe” food with a zingy brand, you might just get the 2)’s as well.

    There we are.

  • #24326

    unclepat
    Participant

    Wow Diapason, that’s a more accurate summing up of my feelings on the issue than I could articulate.

    The suburban blight which you mentioned was certainly a factor in our demise. New ideas were regularly met with requests for “no sauce and just chips”. The erosion of disposable income among those in the burbs with an interest in food has meant that large portions of cheap food ( usually cooked by minimum wage unqualified chefs) are increasingly the only option in suburban restaurants.

    Financial constraints aside, I’ve lost interest in eating out and tend to cook at home now most of the time. On the rare occasions I go out it will be to places where I know what I will get. ( China Sichuan, Juniors, The Greenhouse for special occasions pretty much sums it up).

    Hopefully the dining scene will recover at some point in the future but I have my doubts.

  • #24327

    unclepat
    Participant

    @diapason wrote:

    I’m too old and move in the wrong circles to have anything resembling young “hipster” friends so I don’t know where the money is going there, but I assume it’s the Crackbirds of the world? In any case, the hipsters are just 2)’s in the making, urban rather than suburban.

    I was thinking about your excellent post last night and this point struck a chord with me. There is a market of 20 and 30 something professionals, many still living at home with high disposable income that are steering the direction of the Dublin City Centre food scene. I wouldn’t like to label them all as hipsters ( although I’m sure some wear skinny jeans, mustaches and square glasses!) but they know what they want ( in this order..good tunes, good cocktails, cool servers, decent food).

    Those savvy restauranteurs with their fingers on the pulse have tapped into this and are currently the busiest spots in town. Think Crackbird, Bear, Bite, 777, San Lorenzo, Vintage Cocktail Club, Damson Diner etc. These restaurants have become venues for a night out and not just somewhere for a bite to eat.

    It’s very interesting to see how the market has changed over the last five years and I’m curious to know where it’s going over the next five.

  • #24318

    Diapason
    Participant

    I think you’re absolutely right there, and I think it’s young(ish) people without mortgages who are defining the growth market in Dublin City Centre, and you’re right about the order of importance I think. It probably says something that I’ve only been to one of the places you mention, but Fade Street Social ticks a whole lot of those boxes for me, and I’ve been there a couple of times. I think they’ve nailed the concept, but what remains to be seen is whether they can sustain the buzz in a venue that size.

    Anyway yes, I think there truly is a market there, atmosphere and cocktails are key, food needs to be good but “informal” on some level, and the location can only be City Centre.

    Edit: Oh, and I don’t really think they’re *all* hipsters, but it might be an idea to serve some moustache-wax with the after-dinner espressi.

  • #24319

    bigjoe
    Participant

    I was in Bear the other night for the first time. The food was good but my God the noise. there were 6 of us. They had a DJ in the corner blasting out the (decent) tunes.

    spent the hour shouting at each other. We skipped afters / coffee to retire to a pub so we could here each other.

    Damn the young and their tolerance to big sounds.

    (we did say it to the waiter, he said sorry but Saturday was DJ night. we were there at 7.30pm)

  • #24320

    europhile
    Participant

    If the music’s too loud, you’re up too late, grandpa!

  • #24321

    markh
    Participant

    @bigjoe wrote:

    we were there at 7.30pm

    You should have gone to bed after your lunch, BigJoe !!

  • #24322

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Oddly enough, I’m just writing a restaurant review (sorry Pat) that broaches this very topic. I’ll apologise in advance. Don’t be too surprised if some of your excellent theorising appears therein.

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