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Picnic review: smoked meats and salad treats make a delicious spread - Independent.ie Katy McGuinness

Picnic review: smoked meats and salad treats make a delicious spread - Independent.ie Katy McGuinness

The perfect picnic may exist only in the imagination. Something more than serendipity is required for all the elements to come together in exquisite alignment; you need the skills of a meteorologist, a cook, a sommelier, a retail expert and an event organiser.

Enthusiasts spend years assembling the paraphernalia needed to spring into picnic action at the first hint of summer. They have the recipes, wicker hampers, waterproof rugs and bamboo plates on permanent standby, and you can rely upon them never, ever, to forget the corkscrew. Yet, the picnics we remember most fondly are the spontaneous ones, or the ones that seemed to happen on the spur of the moment, but probably only because someone took responsibility for all those myriad elements and had more than a little luck on their side too.

You can have a fine time with a ham sandwich and a packet of crisps on a park bench, but the beauty of having someone else assemble your picnic for you is that you’ll get small amounts of a wider variety of dishes than you’re likely to be bothered to make yourself. Fallon & Byrne, Mr Fox and Mamo in Dublin, and Saint Francis Provisions in Kinsale, are just a few of the shops and restaurants already offering ready-made picnics to go.

If you want to elevate your picnic game, Gerard Maguire of 64 Wine in Glasthule, is your man. He will provide not only a generous amount of food, but also, if you are happy to lodge a refundable €100 deposit, a picnic basket and one of those nifty Flying Elephant tables you might have spotted on Instagram. In theory, our picnic was to serve two, but there were plenty of leftovers and it would easily have fed three if not four. Gerard will throw in all the glasses, plates and other gear you need for a photogenic picnic, and a rubbish bag for the debris — the packaging is all either recyclable, biodegradable or compostable — which he will get rid of for you. All you need to bring is a rug.

On a sunny Friday morning, it takes three circuits of the village to find a parking space. Glasthule, spiritual home of the Dryrobe, is a victim of its own success, and never more so than a year and counting into the pandemic, when the world and their wife crave sea air and, if not an actual dip at the Forty Foot, then at least a walk along the seafront at Newtown Smith. There are queues outside Cavistons, Hatch and The Punnet and, as the sun shines, bottles of rosé glint seductively in the window of 64 Wine.

Balazs Rakamazi, 64 Wine’s new chef, has reinvigorated the food offering since the brief period when Ely Wine Bar was involved, and he has serious plans for when the restaurant is able to reopen. But in the meantime, there are sandwiches and salads to take away, and a picnic that sets the al-fresco bar high.

Balazs and his team make everything bar the bread (which comes from Dun Laoghaire’s excellent Strudel bakery) from scratch. I’m eating with a friend who is a type 1 diabetic and the selection of food is not only inventive and tasty, but also suitable for someone on a low-carb regimen. The menu will change with seasonality, but ours will give you a good idea as to what you are likely to get.

First off, almonds smoked over cherrywood by Balazs himself (these are a tad too salty, but delicious nonetheless) and house-made charcuterie, wafer-thin slivers of ox tongue smoked over pearwood, as well as organic Clare Island salmon smoked with rosemary over applewood.

There is a delicious pork crackling and Lacuesta vermouth spread, and good basil pesto (made with pine nuts rather than cheaper cashews), to smear over the multi-seed sourdough. Four different salads — grilled tiger prawns with smoky cherry tomato; squid and Roscoff onions in a Sauvignon Blanc reduction; honey-baked fig and Ryefield goat’s cheese; and grilled radicchio with blood orange and crystallised pistachio — offer combinations a little out of the ordinary.

Even though smoking is used in many of the dishes, it is never too much; the flavours and textures are well-balanced. Our only quibble is that the lids are difficult to get back on securely. Because we’ve opted for the luxury version of the picnic, there is superb jamon and salami from Pedro Nieto and a hunk of hard Corleggy goat’s cheese too. Dessert is a sharing slice of a low-key, gluten-free orange and almond cake.

The sun shines on a quiet square in the city centre and we drink a bottle of lightly chilled, energetic Octobre 2020 from Domaine des Foulards and toast the outdoor summer ahead.

Budget
The entry-level picnic costs €49.

Blowout
The luxury picnic is €69.

The rating
8/10 food
9/10 experience
10/10 value
Total: 27/30

64 Wine: 64 Glasthule Road, Glasthule, Co Dublin, 64wine.ie