Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Instagram, Geroge Voronov, The Gloss
As fans of Below Deck will undoubtedly know, Family Style Dining is when a meal is served on large platters meant for sharing rather than as individual plates. Diners then serve themselves from there the way families do on TV. Think of it as private buffet style.
These days family-style meals are the ones that draw your attention when they get waltzed across to a table of well prepared diners. These dishes are ones that get hungrily taken apart by you and your friends. And one of the most hearty dining experiences on the go.
The tradition of family-style dining can be traced back to the Middle Ages. But in Ireland, we all grew up getting our own plate with a meat, spuds and two veg. When dining out became more financially accessible, it embedded itself into our culture in the form of the three-course meal. The idea of sharing was somewhat novel or induced by economic need.
My personal theory is the cote de boeuf introduced Ireland to family-style dining. This steak is specifically designed to be shared and often came with sides. To this day family style tends to revolve around meat. Fancy meat.
As the Cost of Living Crisis keeps pushing up the price of ingredients, for restaurants, family-style makes sense. Apart from the hunk of meat, most of the extra bits have high enough profit margins that they can help businesses struggling in the face of rising prices. It allows restaurants to feed us without sacrificing the quality to which we have become accustomed while still making money enough money to keep a roof over their heads.
There is no shortage of showstopping shareable steaks in the city. So I’ll save the cote de boeuf recs for another day. From seafood platters to duck served three ways to a whole suckling pig fresh off the roasting spit, these are the best family-style dishes in the city right now.
Hang Dai’s Beijing Style Woodfired Roast Duck is a full-body experience. A dish that’s best enjoyed with company, with a wide table in front. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure yet, it’s a whole duck that’s roasted in a specifically designed oven. Each part of the duck is used to create a series of dishes. Perfectly lacquered and then sliced, its pink breast fanned out like petals. This dish has been called one of Dublin’s finest of duck offerings by this publication before. Just bear in mind this has to be pre-ordered and feeds four.
Osterio Lucio offers a family-style meal that revolves around a suckling pig. When would you ever get the chance to have a sucking pig in real life? When are you ever going to take on the kind of enormous project of sourcing and cooking a whole pig? Imagine the transportation, the setup, the fuel management, stray sparks and coal and ash, grease, estimating cooking progress and correcting your schedule, and of course the cleanup.
Instead, head to Dublin 4’s most low-key venue and go all in on their suckling pig shoulder al forno. The dish is made up of pig shoulder, onions, olives, roasted potato, winter leaf salad, apple and horseradish sauce. This suckling pig is as sumptuous as it sounds. It is probably the most delectable way of eating pork in the city, with crisp skin, shiny and golden, delicate flesh and dashing sides.
As seafood platters go, you’re going to want this extravagant butter-soaked surf and turf. Gaz supplies only the very best of peak-fresh shellfish. Depending on what time of the year you go, you can expect oysters, shrimp, smoked mussels, king crab, langoustine, or even lobster. It is an all-out balls-to-the-wall bonanza that demands to be shared by sure size alone. The perfect family-style dish in my eyes.
A boil is where people come together to boil pounds of shellfish and eat ’em alongside cooked potatoes, corn and sometimes Andouille sausage. Osscassinally there is veg, but mostly this feast is about the fish. Krewe’s features Langoustines Prawns, Mussels, Cockles, Clams, Monkfish Cheeks, Cod & Smoked Andouille Sausage; boiled in a spiced Cajun broth with potatoes & corn on the cob. Bibs are supplied – thank the deity of your choice.
The seafood boil is one of the great communal eating experiences of American dining. In Dublin, Krewe serves the only seafood boil we know about on Mondays and Tuesdays. You need to book in advance, and it is for a minimum of four people and comes in at a hundred euros. In all honesty, it is too much food for just four people. You should come prepared to take a doggy bag home.
Dillingers are the latest to wade into the family-style dining craze adding the over sole for two to their menu recently. This bad boy is top-notch affordable, coming in at forty-five euros for two people. That includes sides. So theoretically, including tip, you could go out for twenty-five euros each. That’s a genuine bargain. Especially for a meal that’s as experiential as the Dover Sole.
A good traditional mezze platter is the ultimate form of family-style dining that has been around for centuries. Mezze platters are served with an abundance of fresh ingredients, and a burst of vibrant colours, and is always a unique experience. Greeks believe that sharing food is therapeutic, and it’s no secret that eating hummus makes us happy. Ireland took to hummus faster than Dublin took to avocados. So much so that there was a hummus shortage in January. Shouk makes some of the best in the country, so reservations can be hard to come by but are ultimately so worth the wait.
Elsewhere on CHAR: Why Are We So Obsessed With Lidl Protein Yoghurts?