Compiling a list; “Tasting in Dublin”

The tasting bar at 3fe has always been a place for us to give customers a little extra in terms of tasting. They often get thrown samples, asked to taste things side by side and generally used as guinea pigs for us to try new things out with.

Lately, some of our more frequent customers have gotten to the stage where they don’t even ask for a coffee, because they trust us enough to decide for them and over the last 18 months we know exactly what sort coffees they enjoy. They just sit down at the bar and we let them know whats coming and make sure its good.

Asking for recommendations is not a new thing, but I’m constantly surprised at how badly its done in this city. What tends to happen is that you ask for a recommendation and the person serving you will simply list the choices to you. This frustrates me because whenever I’m asking for a recommendation, its usually because I haven’t a clue what I’m buying so listing the options is of no real benefit to me.

Once this has been done they’ll unfortunately suggest something that is so run-of-the-mill and inoffensive that you possibly couldn’t dislike it, but its not going to satisfy the sort of person who asks for a recommendation in the first place.

I no longer drink, but when I did I really enjoyed going to L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter and just asking them to pick for me. The choice was usually good and even when I wasn’t mad about it I never felt short-changed. Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with Colin et al were about drinks I hated. I’d pay the money for the taste experience rather than the drink itself.

Sheridan’s cheese mongers on South Anne Street is another place where they’re happy to lead you down a path with a recommendation. Fallon and Byrne’s wine cellar, Murphy’s Ice Cream, Hollands of Bray and Drink Store are other rare examples of places in Dublin that will take control of your tasting if you ask them to. I’ve also been assured that Lilliput Stores will do the same but to my shame I have yet to visit. I know.

There’s something very reassuring about someone who’s so passionate about their trade that they can have the ability and confidence to select something for you. Lately I’ve given up on asking for recommendations and started asking them for “something you’re not entirely sure that I’ll like”. The results have always been interesting, usually been tasty and I’ve consistently come away with an experience.

So, where else am I missing? Is there other places in the city where this sort of thing happens? I’m compiling a list of places for tourists to visit entitled “Tasting in Dublin” so all suggestions will be tested and tasted. I will also happily post the list once its compiled so pop your suggestions in the comments box!


5 thoughts on “Compiling a list; “Tasting in Dublin”

  1. The Beer Nut says:

    The Bull & Castle, Against the Grain and The Porterhouse are generally very good at this sort of thing, beerwise. And Celtic Whiskey for whiskey.

    Great idea to put a list together.

  2. Catherine says:

    Ooh, this’ll be a good list.

    The Cake Cafe come to mind – they don’t publish a cake menu as it’s ever-changing, and their staff are great at recommending something decadent/light/fruity/whatever you’re into on the day.

    And Sweeneys off-licence in Phibsboro always have a couple of bottles of wine open in the shop for tasting, and are brilliant at pairing wines to mood or food.

  3. Una says:

    Another vote for Drink Store, or as he’s known in our household, “Twinkly Booze Man”.

    If you manage to persuade the staff that you really, honestly will eat anything, Schezuan House on Parnell St can be the source of interesting taste experiences.

  4. Kieran says:

    I’m rewriting this, so probably wont be as eloquent or long this time around! 😉 Good post, and interesting. It is so hard these days to get good recommendations, and yet… I’m asked all the time by customers to choose ice cream for them, especially when it comes to our tasting selection. Honestly, I find it difficult as does our entire team. I’ve learned that I need to get more info – no point serving sea salt ice cream to someone worried about high blood pressure, brown bread to someone who hates it, or Guinness ice cream to someone who is off the booze. I’ve made those mistakes. It’s tricky to tease out preferences, since choice is stressful for many people, and yet most people also have clear likes and dislikes. Offering free tastes of the ice cream helps, and it’s a pretty easy solution to make sure they get what they want as well as try whatever I feel is cool at any given moment (and it changes quite regularly!). They can also push their own boundaries without having to commit to a choice until they are sure. With the coffee, if we have a selection of beans I try to get them to sniff the options – that seems to work better and is more visceral than just telling them we have a Kenyan or a Costa Rican. It’s a tricky balance!

    By the way, this might be of interest regarding choice, and it also deals with how companies and professionals push choice onto customers rather than making a recommendation:

  5. Drew Moody says:

    This very thing, my friend, is one of my very biggest pet peeves. I used to work for Peet’s Coffee and Tea, here in the States, and whenever a customer asked me, “What do you recommend,” I always immediately replied with a question: “Well, what taste do you typically like?” Once the customer and employee establish what it is that the customer has a taste for, the recommendations can proceed from there.

    I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been to a restaurant, cafe, bar, or whatever, and have asked “What do you recommend,” only to have the menu read to me. “Cheers, mate. I had briefly forgotten how to read.”

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