Review: Marqette at Dublin Airport - 'The carvery-style food looks nothing like the website photos'
Marqette, Terminal 1, Dublin Airport. (01) 944 6558
We're in Catania Airport in Sicily on the way home from holiday.
An early ferry from the Aeolian island of Salina gives us a few hours to kill. We've missed lunch and now there's time to squeeze in one last meal. There are a few pasta options - of course - with chefs putting the finishing touches to trays of rigatoni al forno before popping them into the oven, and good aromas from a pot of ragu. Others are working on rows of pizza dough that have proved for a second time and are ready to be rolled out. There are half a dozen salads, plates of grilled vegetables with irregular griddle marks, and an array of pastries, including the pistachio-flecked ricotta-stuffed cannoli of which some of us have grown unduly fond.
In the end, we go for penne with a vegetable-rich ragu that reminds us of the classic Marcella Hazan recipe, an enormous quarter-tranche of pizza topped with artichokes and porcini, and a salad of prosciutto and salty shaved caciocavallo, the local variant on Parmesan. With a couple of beers and a soft drink, the bill for three comes to just under €30.
Two weeks earlier, in Dublin Airport, we tried out the food offering at Marqette, the new food court in Terminal 1, legging it over from Terminal 2 after passing through security. The decor, signage and merchandising is attractive - for an airport. According to Marqette's website, the design of the food hall is intended to evoke traditional outdoor food markets in an urban setting and offers [direct quote] "locally sourced, organic produce as well as fresh artisan breads that are baked on site. The different servery counter styles and eclectic furniture mix were designed to avoid the space having a conventional, clean-lined, overly-modern feel. The design team have succeeded in creating a cosy and inviting space where the passenger can take time out between check-in and boarding in comfort. A ceiling raft sits over the main servery areas, with bespoke terracotta pendants protruding through it over the centre island units. Other eye-catching features include salvaged fruit crates, milk churns and beer casks."
We visit at lunchtime and the seating area looks neglected, with the floor by our table in need of a good sweeping.
A salad bar features smoked and grilled salmon, grilled chicken, bread topped with leaves, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, mixed olives, couscous, feta, and those traditional Irish favourites, tinned sweetcorn, rice salad with peppers, beetroot, quartered tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, red cheddar in plastic packets and potato salad. There are goats' cheese tarts that look heavy on the pastry, a frittata, and a couple of foccacia breads with different toppings. The sandwiches are Pret-like (crayfish and rocket makes an appearance), and there are pots of Glenilen yogurt and salad to grab and run. The Hatch which makes omelettes and pancakes to order is unmanned.
We opt for the hot lunch offering - a tasty but sludgy-coloured bacon and corn chowder, smoked belly of pork with cider sauce that has good crackling and flavour, and a leaden potato-heavy fish-cake that tastes of nothing much served with a tart lemon and caper dressing. These last two come with mountainous portions of glazed carrots, mashed potato and broccoli in hollandaise. The presentation could do with more finesse - the carvery-style food looks nothing like the photos on the website.
A pulled ham and cheese toastie with Welsh rarebit topping is pre-prepared and popped into the microwave; it's adequate. In the brioche bap, there's not enough of the pulled ham marinated in Galway Hooker beer - nor of the pickled green cabbage, cheddar cheese or wasabi mayo. A list of suppliers on the wall gives no indication that any of the produce is organic, despite what it says on the website.
Marqette is part of the Michael JF Wright Hospitality Group, and last month won the Airport Food Hall of the Year award at the Moodie Davitt Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards.
"The shortlist [reads the press release] was drawn from almost 250 entries, representing all sectors of the burgeoning airport food & beverage sector. The awards recognise and reward best practice in the sector … Marqette was announced as the overall winner of the prestigious Airport Food Hall of the Year, positioning Marqette as the number one in the world.
"Food provenance and authenticity were top of agenda for Wright as he sought to deliver Irish culinary delights with exceptional customer service to airport passengers. The on-site bakery making fresh bread and pastries, street food, crepes and omelettes cooked via a converted 1960s Citroen Van aptly named 'The Hatch' and a range of signature takeaway 'Food on the Fly' products, are all unique features of this market inspired unit."
So there you have it. Dublin Airport has the best airport food hall in the world. Plans are under way for development of the Marqette 'concept' in St Andrew's Church in Dublin's city centre too.
Lunch for four, with soft drinks, costs €58.70.
5/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
American-style pancakes are €5.50, children's meals are €6, and a slow-roast pulled pork sandwich is €5.95.
ON A BLOW-OUT
Soup, a hot main course and a mini-bottle of wine will set you back €54 for two before dessert.
THE HIGH POINT
The pork had good crackling.
THE LOW POINT
Strip away the work of the interior designer and what you have is no better nor worse than standard airport food. It would be good to see Marqette used to showcase the very best of Irish food, and true artisan producers making distinctive Irish products.