We discover the culinary delights set along the Grand Canal. Eat up and enjoy.
Based on the banks of the Grand Canal, Irish Village Markets has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Under the guidance of its founder Des Valvey, it has brought food from distant lands to the taste buds of the Irish consumer.
Set up in 2004 , Des began with just a small stall outside Monkstown parish church and from there it developed to become lunchtime markets. “We started out with just a small stall and all this just really happened by accident. A person came up to me and asked if he could sell coffee in the market; I said it wasn’t a market but feel free and it grew from there, it was really by accident”.
These markets run throughout the summer, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Ireland has the climate to make these ventures successful. As I stand waiting for Des to arrive the heavens open. Just then Des arrives. He explains how the weather can have a massive impact on the amount of trade that gets done on the day. “If it’s raining heavily then the market would get between 1000 and 1500 customers over the day. But if it’s a nice sunny day then double that figure”.
I met him at his market on Mespil Road. This is just one of the locations that hosts these Irish Village Markets. They are spread throughout Dublin in places like Blanchardstown, Stillorgan and Merrion Road etc. “We currently operate 9 markets throughout Dublin City and they operate on both public and private land. Our ideal location? I suppose we would need it to be within walking distance of a high concentration of office workers. 90% of the workers that visit us would be from the surrounding offices.”
The location for these markets is vitally important to their continued success. “We like aesthetic. We have markets along the canals and the convention centre,” Des also explains that “location is key. We usually look for space close to offices. Seeing as this is a lunchtime market most of our customers would be office workers looking to take a break from the usual deli sandwiches.”
These markets just show how much the Irish taste buds have changed with the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and further afield. “10 or 12 years ago we didn’t have the opportunity to eat Korean food, Thai food or Sushi. So I guess as more people from outside have come in to make their lives here in Ireland that they have brought those skills with them and that the Irish taste buds have
changed massively because of that.” The market has Brazilian food next to Lebanese food which is next to German cuisine and so on, so the choice is nearly endless.
With the success of these markets and the continued expansion, local businesses have been getting more and more frustrated as Des explains; “We’ve had a bit of flack from local businesses and cafes saying that we’re taking away their business but look, it’s fair competition. Our guys follow the same rules and regulations as everyone else so I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong”.
People are more aware of where they are buying their produce from. The general public are more likely to support small businesses if the service they provide is of a high quality and the prices are reasonable. And that is what you get at Irish Village Markets with nothing costing over €9. For that price you get a meal size portion. A much healthier option rather than a prefaced sandwich, packet of crisps and a fizzy drink.
“I think people like supporting small businesses rather that one big business. Here (Mespil Road) we have around 18 stalls supplying locally produced food where possible. All the stalls are independently owned and no one is getting rich doing this” Des explained.
Des is very open to the idea of new businesses wanting to be part of the Irish Village Markets.”If you’re a restaurant or a cafe and you’ve got a good quality product and want to look at a different option of getting your product in the public eye then that option to join us is there.”
Judging by the size of the crowds on a wet day it won’t be long before we see the true potential of this trade. Des explains that there are even plans to open a village market in Rome but as the old saying goes; “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
About the Author:
Thomas Telford has just completed a degree in journalism in Griffith College earlier this year. A huge Munster, sorry Leinster, and Irish rugby supporter. He’s really cool and I like to call him Tom-Cat.