Lunchtime markets kick dining al fresco to the curb

Pop-up city markets continue to grow in popularity with workers sick of the same old soggy sandwiches.

You can’t swing a bunch of organic mud-encrusted heirloom carrots these days without hitting a farmers’ market. And while they’re a great way to sink €50 and laze around on a weekend morning, they don’t really cut the (French, truffle-infused whole-grain) mustard on a weekday when you’re on the hunt for some lunch. Step forward the pop-up lunchtime markets that have slowly been colonising open spaces around the city to feed long queues of hungry workers.

Irish Village Markets operates eight locations around Dublin city. Des Vallely and Tara Dalton have been running markets for more than 10 years and currently have lunchtime events on Tuesdays at Stillorgan Luas stop (from April to October); Wednesdays at Eastpoint, Spencer Dock and the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre on Grand Canal; Thursdays on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road, Blanchardstown corporate park, Merrion Square (from the start of August) and Fridays on the Grand Canal at Percy Place and Sandyford Industrial Estate.

While weather can affect numbers, business is booming, with more than 5,500 people coming to Sandyford for lunch every Friday, according to Valelly. The markets begin from 11am or 11.30am, with stallholders serving food until approximately 2.30pm. There’s live music (including DJs in Sandyford) with a wide variety of food on offer: each market has an average of 15 vendors, with many stall holders visiting multiple locations. Kanum Thai, which serves generous portions of creamy beef Massaman curry (€8) or traditional pad thai noodles (€8), can be found at all of the markets, as can Say Fish, which serves handcut seaweed salted chips and sustainable haddock or prawns in breadcrumbs (both €8), and some good sauces such as lemon cajun, black garlic truffle mayonnaise or garlic mayo with wild chives.

Some of the more popular vendors, according to Valelly, include the meat-centric Gourmet Kitchen, which uses meat from Dublin butchers FX Buckley for its flame-grilled dry aged steak sandwiches (€7.50 or €9 with chips) and a three-cheese Philly Steak sandwich, with mascarpone, Parmesan and Cashel Blue. The Paella Guys, with their enormous trays of meat and fish paella and Moorish meatballs (€6.50 for small, €8 for larger or half and half) are popular, as are Burger Republic, Kerala Kitchen and Grub Hub. There’s a growing trend for healthier food, Valelly says, “the demand for meat is down, and salad bars and vegan food are becoming more popular”. He points to the success of newcomers Shoots and Roots as evidence of this – their vegan food is selling well, including dishes such as a cous-cous, black-eyed bean and almond burger (€4) or salads such as fennel, rocket, almonds and courgette with tarragon and lemon served by the half tub (€3) or tub (€6). See

So what’s next for these markets? Des Vallely of Irish Village Markets predicts “food trucks will be the next big thing. They’re already big in the US and now they’re coming here.” Gourmet Kitchen has a converted ambulance, while Burger Republic is working on an American-style school bus to serve their food.

“We’re going to see more food trucks and less pop-ups . . . better quality ingredients and more quirky ideas. They’re all competing against each other so the quality is improving all the time.”

Rachel Collins – Irish Times