Every Wednesday evening there is a drama workshop in the city centre. I’ve been known to attend.
The problem is that it starts at 7pm. When one works in the grim, industrial wastelands of County Dublin, and only finishes toiling at the coalface of administration at 5.30pm, there is no time to rush home for a quick bite to eat before heading out again.
This necessitates some compromise. As a diabetic I can’t skip a meal. If at all possible I try to avoid eating at McDonalds or Burger King.
I have been known to partake of a portable Thai shrimp curry from the Wok In on North Earl Street; or a sandwich from any random Spar; a plate of Indian food at the buffet in the Moore Street Mall; or a burrito from the Saburrito beside the Wok In.
On the bus on the way in to town last night, I wondered what I should eat. Time was tight. I could skip the class, and cook something tasty and nutritious at home? Or I could grab something quick in town. That was an easy decision.
But where to go?
I had a flash of genius. I could do some marketing validation (and in the process have a subject for today’s blog – I have a tendency these days to view situations through the lens of potential bloggability.) I was going to Boojum on Abbey Street – the Mexican burrito bar – for a filled tortilla wrap.
Now for some background. Late last year I wrote a blog (read it HERE…) about an Irish lifestyle website that makes my skin crawl. The site – www.lovindublin.com – is one of those loathsome American style millennial websites. The kind where the writers will have attended university but will speak in uptalk – whereby every sentence ends with a question mark. They write like people who engage in vocal fry, and use murder inducing phrases like ‘totes delish’ to describe food. It is the kind of site that tries to keep its finger on the pulse of what is hot and what is not. And then tells us all about it in infuriating articles entitled ‘OMG. Drop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and head over to this deadly eatery selling delish avo-infused gin cocktails. They are LIFE.’
I hate-read this web-site on a semi-regular basis. Occasionally they do interesting pieces titled ‘OMG. These city walks are TOTES AMAZEBALLS. Drop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go on one’, which offer vaguely interesting ideas for future excursions. When it comes to bar and restaurant recommendations I am a lot more suspicious about the site’s credibility and tend to use it as a guide of where to avoid.
The reason for my doubt is simple – there is a huge question mark over the authenticity of both the site and its reviews. This has always been apparent. In a city with over a million people, and many, many choices, this site’s favoured locations seemed remarkably limited. Could it be possible that they are accepting bribes or cash payment for advertisements but then pretending that these are unbiased reviews?
I wrote that blog post and it received the usual level of traffic. Until a Facebook post by a bar called Oscars – which is based in Smithfield – appeared. Lovin’ Dublin had emailed Oscars asking them to host a Christmas party for the website. Free of charge. In exchange, the site would give the bar, double the value of the drinks tab in ‘sponsored content’ on its page.
‘Sponsored content’ I understood to mean paid advertising posing as ‘glowing reviews’.
The only problem was that earlier in the year the site had thrashed the same bar, its staff, its reputation, its location for a rather petty and vindictive reason. Understandably the bar wanted nothing to do with that party, so it posted the request for the free bar tab and its own scathing rejection of the request. To quote – ‘I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than do any kind of collaboration with Lovin’ Dublin.’
Lovin’ Dublin has a habit of raving about new ‘eateries’ (oh yes it is the type of website that engages in language abuse like this) before they even open for business, but then write hideous reviews of the place mere days after trading starts – long before the place has had a chance to settle into a rhythm. This is what they did to Nolita restaurant after four days of trade.
It appears that a good review from Lovin’ Dublin indicates that the restaurant must have paid for said review.
Which brings me to Boojum on Abbey Street.
This is one of those places that gets raved about on such a regular basis you wonder if they are paying bribes. Burritos are a reasonably tasty Mexican fast food. They are not as unhealthy as deep fried spuds but it’s hardly haute cuisine either. They are convenient, somewhat tasty, rather standard fast food. And the number of places selling them around town is vast – I can think of four places within walking distance of my house. All are about the same in terms of quality. Boojum (which has various locations around town) is the only place to inspire such orgasmic reviews (or any review in fact) on the TOTES dreadful Lovin’ Dublin website.
In I trotted in for my evening repast. I ordered a chili con carne burrito with Mexican rice, Capo Verda salsa and sour cream. The place was busy. It was full of hipsters – the type of people that read Lovin’ Dublin without utter contempt. The service was fast. The food was reasonably tasty.
But a burrito is a burrito. It was no better than any I’d eaten in any other shop. Perfectly adequate and strangely mediocre considering the hyperbole surrounding the place on that execrable website.
Is Lovin’ Dublin accepting cash payment from Boojum for sponsored content I wonder?
It would seem so. Then again I’m no Miss Marple. What would I know?