Thursday 18 January 2018

Electric Picnic: When hunger strikes

From posh nosh to spit roasts, pizzas, ethnic grub and hearty pies, Aingeala Flannery is on the food trail to help you refuel in style from any of the 105 caterers on site

Aingeala Flannery

Apparently, I am exactly the sort of person who should be going to Electric Picnic. People keep telling me this. The crowd is older. You get more mature and sophisticated, less inebriated calibre of person than you do at Oxegen.

It's a 'boutique' festival. Groovy grown-ups fill their campervan fridges with Prosecco and peaches. And those who don't stay in chic tepees called yurts. Yep, the consensus is that I'd absolutely, unequivocally love the vibe at the Electric Picnic, it is so chilled out and family friendly I can even bring my son.

And that is precisely why I will not be going to the Electric Picnic.

Small children have no place going to music festivals -- much as they have no business eating in restaurants. I would not bring my own child, and I sure as hell don't want to spend the weekend with your child. All that fighting over food, the "one more bedtime story" routine, followed by a tantrum because mammy forgot to pack Mr Cat.

So you drink a bottle of wine to smother the strain and five hours later you're woken by a little pointy finger in your ear, demanding Cheerios. Before the wailing over Mr Cat begins again.

I'm aware of (acquainted with, in fact) the contingent of modern laissez faire-style parents who believe in bringing their kids everywhere.

They share beds and baths with them, they breastfeed them until the child is old enough to take the pledge. I think they're crazy and sanctimonious. They think I'm selfish and cold. But, in fact, it is they who are selfish. And this insistence on bringing children to music festivals proves it.

I remember the first concert I ever went to. It was The Smiths in the SFX in 1984. I sweated and I moshed, and I moshed and I sweated. I swooned over Morrissey and thought my teenage heart would explode with love and admiration. Then I kissed a curehead from Ringsend who gave me a Benson & Hedges in return for my phone number, but he never called. My first live gig was what music critics call a seminal moment. And my parents had the good sense to let me have it for my own.

I do not want my son to turn around in 2030 and say the first ever gig he went to was when his mammy brought him to see some auld fella called Bryan Ferry. Of course, I could go to the Electric Picnic without him, but he'd have to stay with Ma Flannery, which isn't a runner because it's the same weekend as the All-Ireland hurling final and Ma Flannery will be in the Cusack Stand roaring like a cow in labour.

But that's another matter entirely ... So, enough about me -- let's talk about you, and what you'll be getting to eat at Electric Picnic. When the organisers emailed me the list of caterers -- 105 in total -- I must admit I was impressed. I had intended to recommend a couple of places in Portlaoise, but unless you've got off-site accommodation, there's no reason to graze in the faraway fields.

Pick of the Picnic has to be The Beef Boutique -- a VIP area stall, which, appropriately enough, sells meat from rare breed, pasture reared cattle. Posh nosh for the elite -- even the chips are freshly carved from locally grown spuds. Staying in the VIP area, Dick & Dave's will be serving up sourdough pizzas, which they flash bake in a woodfired oven, but bless their egalitarian socks -- Dick & Dave have a second stall at the Picnic, to cater for the hoi polloi.

London fishmongers Seacow are, by now, a festival staple. Their fish and chips with minted peas is always good, but tempura prawns, whitebait and plaice goujons are also worth a go. Other familiar names include Flaming Cactus -- for burritos and tacos, and Rocket & Relish who dish out gourmet burgers from an Airstream trailer. I believe their chargrilled chicken breast, marinated in soy with ginger and lemongrass -- served on a bap with sweet chili sauce, onion and tomato -- is a knockout.

There's something about the open air that fills me with sausage cravings, and there is no shortage of pork at the Picnic. Nor is there a shortage of stalls declaring their own brilliance, among them The Splendid Meat Company and The Real Food Company. My penchant for all things piggy would draw me to Eat Fat Pig or to The Welsh Hog Company, which roasts a pig on a spit and then stuffs it into rolls with sage and onion. Their kangaroo burgers, I cannot vouch for.

But let us stay with sausages, because children love them too, and if you bring kids, you must feed them. Sussed Foods tailor their menu to suit kids, as do Panners, who specialise in sweet and savoury crepes.

If you're looking for a sugary bribe or a 'shut up' as it's called in my house, go to Born to Bake, which bakes frosted cupcakes, cookies, traybakes, and muffins. For brownies, check out Sweet Things, where they also serve fresh Belgian waffles.

As you'd expect, there's no shortage of ethnic grub. If Thai's your thing, Wok N Roll has a bad name, but sells good food. Curry lovers should head for Café Goa, while those in search of a kebab or a falafel are spoiled for choice. Here the options include Lebanese Kitchen and Suha's. The latter is a Palestinian operation that specialises in falafel, but also serves hummus, babaganoush, tabouleh, stuffed vine leaves, and sweet and sticky baclava.

Among the ethnic choices, you'll also find Mao, a well-known restaurant in Dublin, which will be serving some of its Asian best sellers. Another familiar name is The Butler's Pantry -- an excellent choice if you're hungry for something hearty and homemade. They do very good meat casseroles.

What else? Oh yes, pies. How could I forget pies? There shall be pies galore, with forerunners Pieminister, Purepie and the Battersea Pie Station all fighting for your euro. For vegetarians, there's acres of luscious green Laois grass, but if that becomes tedious you could hunt down a smoothie or there's a bloke selling nuts and seeds in the Farmer's Market. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against vegetarians, my sister is one. But she hasn't spoken to me for years. If you are a veggie and you think you've come across a stellar stall, you might want to vote for them in a contest that's being run by The Bridgestone Guide.

The Guide has invited the most important and celebrated foodies in the country to talk at the Picnic's food forum. I'd have welcomed the opportunity to turn them down, had they invited me. So, my advice, if you can't find anything decent to eat at the Picnic, is to find the Bridgestone Guide people and air your grievance. Darina Allen, Clodagh McKenna, Paul Flynn of the Tannery and Ross Golden Bannon will be in attendance. Tell 'em Miss Flannery sent you. And that you could eat a small child.

Irish Independent

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