We know that the IKEA furniture experience divides opinion not only in Ireland but around the world, with designers embarking on philosophical arguments over the merits and downfalls of the flat pack giant. We were however interested to read an amusing review of the IKEA restaurant in the newly opened Dublin store, by renowned Irish food critic Tom Doorley. Have a read below, and we hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Flat-pack food that’s surprisingly good AS EXERCISES IN lunacy go, it went quite well. By which I mean our visit to Ikea, arriving shortly after noon on a Sunday, involved no physical injury or near-suffocation. The first bit was almost spooky: thousands of people emerging from their cars, and walking with unnatural calm towards the great coloured temple, in vast crocodiles. Had we all extended our arms in front of us it might have resembled mass sleepwalking. All of Irish life was represented. There were men who would have preferred a livestock sale; small, dazed children being wheeled in trolleys; furtive matrons, expensively dressed, there because of the economic climate; people wearing black, working out dimensions on their iPhones; men with the kind of glasses that spell out “I am an architect”; couples with big earrings, tattoos and buggies; students arguing loudly about the subjectivity of taste; husbands under hypnosis; bribed teenagers; at least one TD; and one ex-con (not the same person). Actually, we had a whale of a time. There was a pleasant community spirit, people exchanging smiles and pleasantries. And I found a chair, for little money, that suits my back. Also, a solution to the shelving problem in the study (lots of space, little money) has been found. But first of all, we repaired to Ikea’s vast restaurant, which, by 12.30pm, was packed. Once again, there was a strange sense of calm, as if the customers had been mildly sedated. With that characteristic efficiency that the Swedes have brought to Saabs, sex and seating, long queues were processed in no time. The food, by and large, was really rather good, and, perhaps more importantly in the times in which we live, astonishingly cheap. Put it like this: the five of us had a great deal to eat, much of it very good, soft drinks, bottled water and coffee, and the bill came to a few cents more than €40. There was a plate of gravadlax, four large slices of it, with the usual sweetish mustardy sauce, for €3.90. And it was good gravadlax, not the sweaty, fishy sort. Prawns and hard-boiled egg on brown bread – an elegant little pick-me-up – cost €2.95. Haddock, encased in a breadcrumb overcoat, was good, even if the coating could have been crisper, and its accompanying chips were a touch flaccid but, bloody hell, only €5.50 – with tartare sauce thrown in. Level-pegging with the haddock was organic pasta (a kind of penne) with tomato sauce, a very generous helping for – pinch yourself – €1.95. The pasta was properly cooked, the sauce was chunky, suitably tomatoey and decently seasoned. All it needed was a dusting of Parmesan, but Ikea doesn’t do Parmesan. Then there were the Swedish meatballs, which were . . . well, fine, if you’re really hungry. They resemble those meaty things you can buy in Lidl and Aldi, and which seem a good idea before you discover they have an off-putting springy, spongy character. They came with the traditional beige sauce and a generous dollop of very sweet lingonberry relish. You get 10 meatballs for €3.95. The Scandinavians have brought us not just brilliant design at affordable prices but also the Daim (formerly Dime) bar. Ikea sells Daim bar cake for €1.50 a slice, one of the most seductive pathways to diabetes you are likely to find (the €1 for your soft drink, followed by limitless refills, a deal that extends to perfectly potable coffee, could point in this direction too). Anyway, the Daim cake is just gorgeous. Little Swedish cakes for 70 cent divided opinion among us, but reminded me that I don’t like pistachio marzipan. A strawberry tartlet for €2.25 was fine. I’ve no doubt that, great value aside, Ikea’s food will be subject to a degree of snootiness. Personally, I think it’s great, even if I wouldn’t want to eat there every day.