Sunday 17 December 2017

Beatyard: Dublin festival will pair top notch street food with impressive music lineup

Eatyard, 9–10 South Richmond St, Saint Kevin’s, D2, (01) 906 0218 /

A major draw of Beatyard is its food and drink element, aka Eatyard, with talks and demos from top chefs, brewers and roasters
A major draw of Beatyard is its food and drink element, aka Eatyard, with talks and demos from top chefs, brewers and roasters

Does anyone else remember the excitement of Liffey Street’s Epicurean Food Hall when it first opened? By the time it closed its doors last year, after a decade and half of trading, the place had become run-down and irrelevant.

But back in the early Noughties, it was a breath of fresh air.

It’s hard now to imagine a Dublin without burrito bars, slow’n’low joints and sushi shops competing for our tenners, but I distinctly remember the thrill of choosing between what was Dublin’s first burrito (at Taco Taco), Japanese sushi and Spanish tapas alongside Turkish kebabs or Irish-Italian fish’n’chips. Besides sampling flavours hard to find elsewhere, the ‘food court’ aspect of a common seating area allowed each diner order whatever they fancy — handy for gangs of friends, couples or friends with different tastes or appetites.

Fast-forward a decade and a half, and we live in different times. The recession hot-housed what is now a thriving casual dining scene here in Dublin. And the international food truck revolution is finally finding an expression here, albeit one where our mobile eateries operate from static locations for regulatory purposes.

The difficulty in securing official approval stymied various early adaptors to the food-truck trend. But we Irish have always been good at finding a work-around.

Some parked their wheels, in a car park as Gaillot & Grey did or warehouses as per Veginity or K Chido. Others ditched the wheels and developed street-food stalls for food markets, outdoor events and an increasingly busy festival circuit.

One of the most interesting players in this emerging street-food space has been Bodytonic, which started out as a collective of DJs and music promotors around the same time that the Epicurean Food Hall was pre-empting our casual dining revolution.

Under the steerage of Trevor O’Shea, Bodytonic has given Dublin a whole lot to love via clubs and pubs like The Twisted Pepper (where Colin Harmon’s 3FE coffee empire first found its footing, as did Jim Carroll’s brilliant Banter talks); MVP (where Aoife McElwain’s Singalong Social was accidentally birthed); and The Bernard Shaw (which gave us The Big Blue Bus pizza, a festival favourite from breakfast-time to soakage o’clock).

Bodytonic has also organised and supported some of our best festivals, from spin-offs like barbecue extravaganza The Big Grill (August 17-20, Herbert Park, to their own Beatyard (August 5-6, Dun Laoghaire, with headliners Mark Ronson and AIR.

A major draw of Beatyard is its food and drink element, aka Eatyard, with talks and demos from top chefs, brewers and roasters and the big reveal of the first ever Irish Street Food Awards (ISFA).

At its heart is Just Eatyard, an outdoor food court for the times we live in.

Festival-goers have several dozen street-food offers to choose from and a central lounge area to chow down in, and waiters representing the Just Eat delivery service will make the process as easy as ordering take-out from your own sofa. It’s like a night out and the night after rolled into one.

You can catch also Eatyard’s regular rotation of street-food vendors and programme of tastings, talks and demos in its own semi-permanent pop-up space in Portobello. The set-up is pretty well weather-proofed: vendors are outdoors in trucks or self-contained units surrounded by wooden palette seating, but you can also bring your food into the Bernard Shaw pub next door or its semi-covered beer garden.

The last time I visited, a power outage restricted us to soakage-friendly arancini balls. This time, options included Bray’s beloved Box Burger, Pitt Bros smoked meats and nachos on steroids, No Bones Chicken Cones’ fried Irish chicken and chips with inventive toppings, Taiwanese steamed buns from Pow Bao or vegan ‘fish-and-chips’ from Veginity.

I wanted something less starchy, so plumped for Kerala Kitchen’s lamb kebab salad box (€9) of varied leaves in a zesty ginger dressing with grated beetroot and carrot and a generous serving of full-flavoured, warmly spiced lamb seekh kebab.

It was good — better than the confused and slow service had suggested — but not a patch on the lamb served by Kinara Kitchen at various festivals.

My brother took the ‘pabellon’ special (€8) from the new Venezuelan-inspired Arepas Grill. Arepa is a cornbread pocket, flavoured in this case with earthy sesame seeds and stuffed with pulled beef (think pulled pork without the flavoursome fat), black beans, sweet plantains, grated halloumi (aka mostly grated cheddar) and optional garlic aoili for some necessary oomph. 

Hats off to Trevor O’Shea for providing the space and support team (including the dynamic Ali Dunworth) to foster Ireland’s emerging street food scene. Eatyard feels like it’s finding its groove. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next.

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