A few weeks ago, I had a truly spellbinding dining experience. I attended The Secret Garden Dublin, a week long (May 5th – 9th) pop up restaurant that blossomed right in the heart of Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square.
I realise I’m a little late in writing this, but I was at the very last evening of the event before the garden closed it’s ivy gates, so I didn’t want to tease anyone who missed out! Hopefully the Dublin Pop Up team have something up their sleeves for the very near future. So for now, I’ll just share pictures from the evening. Everything was so beautiful, it would be ludicrous not to! This post is pretty image heavy…you’ve been warned.
The garden was beautiful; the lighting romantic. The team were boundlessly passionate, and the six course tasting menu was phenomenal! The wildest part? It was all for a mere €20. I attended the 20.30pm sitting and I’m so glad I did. The darker it got, the more enchanting the garden became. Lights and illuminations shone brighter.
I was so impressed by the atmosphere. We were serenaded and enchanted all night with piano tunes, while everyone chatted away under a huge twinkling chandelier. It felt like we were gathering as long lost friends, catching up at the perfect summer garden party; when in reality we were sheltered under a cluster of brightly coloured umbrellas, safe from the evening’s downpour. Typical Irish summer weather! The two hugely talented chefs behind the evening’s menu, Harry Colley and Cúán Greene even came out for a chat during dessert. Both guys were so friendly…and very easy on the eye, if I do say so myself.
We were greeted and shown to our seats, and offered a glass of prosecco. The table displays were beautiful, adorned with rows of fresh flowers, glowing candles in mason jars and piles of fresh, crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. Each seat was covered with a thick cozy purple blanket (which many appreciated greatly later on that evening) and the much talked about (and much enjoyed) Secret Garden menu. The theme of the menu was traditional Irish fare.
The first course was mackerel ceviche served with linseed, yam, pickled ginger and duileasc (a type of seaweed.) The presentation was absolutely beautiful.
I didn’t taste a morsel until the tiradito soup came around. The soup was a gorgeous moss green. I enjoyed watching the pouring as much as the tangy and refreshing flavours. The linseed provided a nice texture and crunch.
I had the best seat! I sat facing the stage, beside me was the flatscreen where we were shown a Secret Garden clip later on, and to my right (your left!) was an entire bathtub filled filled with bobbing carafes of chilled white wine.
Course two was known as the ‘Bloody Mary.’ Sundried tomatoes, vodka celery and tomato foam with chips of grissini. I have never tasted anything like the tomato snow..it was such a strange sensation! I really enjoyed it and loved it even more when I stirred everything up together to create a flavour tornado!
The break between courses was perfectly timed. It was one of the most memorable evenings I have had in a long time.You could tell the Dublin Pop Up team went to great lengths to make sure everyone was relaxed, comfortable and having a great time. The chat was effortless all evening and the service was impeccable; waiting staff seemed to be enjoying the evening just as much as we did, and offered to take many a diner’s photo. The red and white wine was flowing for the many hours we were there..I have never been treated so well for just €20!
The third course was a baked potato. The skin was crunchy, the sour cream butter and chives added a little kick and the egg yolk was gooey and a beautiful yellow hue. I loved the texture of this dish and it was definitely one of my favourites.
Now we’re into the meaty bit! The 4th course was sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce and red pepper infused rice. The steak was tender and juicy. The béarnaise was excellent and I wanted more! I thought the dish would have been better without the rice, which I wasn’t a fan of, but it did give it a pop of colour.
The lamb dish was my favourite. Slow cooked lamb in a malt crumb, lamb leg with garlic, parsnip and whiskey sauce. The meat was tender and the flavours were sharp. This was my favourite, mainly due to the deep smoky flavour of the lamb leg, which Harry (one of the chefs mentioned above!) told us it was smoked over peat. A really nice and well executed dish.
The final course was a swiss roll. Strawberry jam and jelly, with basil mousse, pieces of chocolate brownie and bitter dark chocolate. The plates arrived and the team followed! Organisers, chefs and waiting staff.
We were shown a short video about the preparation, creation and all the excellent work that went into the Secret Garden. This is totally irrelevant, but my tweet I sent the Secret Garden Dublin twitter account a few weeks ago asking about when I could book a table featured in the video for a split second..I felt like a celebrity! The video showed the buzz around the event and how much the menu was enjoyed throughout the week by both young and old. The video finished with a big reveal – the fish, meat, vegetables and other items on the menu were purchased at Lidl!
The Dublin Pop Up team and chefs spoke about their fantastic experiences before and during the Secret Garden Dublin event, and Claire Moran (Lidl Ireland’s Communication Manager) said a few words, thanking the team for keeping such a difficult secret and making the event so special. Claire was very thoughtful and friendly throughout the evening and took the time to speak to everybody.
The slogan of the event and aim of the marketing campaign was to show that good food doesn’t have to cost the earth. I was very impressed by the reveal, the slogan and of course how it tied in with the gorgeous garden theme. Congratulations to Dublin Pop Up and Lidl on the amazing success of this event and their generous donations to the Barretstown charity:
‘Over five days, the Lidl Secret Garden generated a total of €12,000 from lunch and dinner bookings. This figure is being matched by Lidl and all €24,000 will be donated to Lidl’s charity partner, Barretstown, a residential camp founded by Paul Newman in 1994, which provides therapeutic recreation programmes for children with serious illnesses and their families.’ – Secretgarden.ie
I left the event shortly before midnight, satisfied, elated and buzzing after over three incredibly enjoyable hours of what felt like a fairytale…and Lord knows how much wine I had. Gorgeous surroundings, food and personalities!
(I wore a little green liquid eyeliner to go with the garden theme!)
We finished with whiskey sours at Bison Bar and discussed our favourite dishes..I’m definitely looking forward to what Dublin Pop Up have in store next.
For more information on Lidl’s Secret Garden and Dublin Pop Up:
♥ ♥ ♥