Away from the lakes and the Shannon, the middle of Ireland doesn’t have a strong culinary tradition. Nevertheless, there are producers and places making inroads into this old image. The Blue Apron is one such place. Small and fairly central, there’s nothing especially noteworthy about the interior, which feels a little standard, exposed and thus impersonal. This isn’t reflected in the service or the food, however, both of which are very commendable and recommendable.
Choosing a set Sunday menu for the solid price of €26.95, the pre-starter set the tone well – an ample square of butter with still warm, very slightly sweet and well crusted soda and brown breads.
Starters were portobello mushroom, bolognese, parmesan shavings and garlic toasti for one and poached spiced pear, Cashel Blue Irish cider vinaigrette and candied pecans for the other. Both were enjoyable and apt. Shredded steak added a real luscious juiciness to the whole mushroom package. All four main elements of the salad starter harmonised together exceptionally well. Leaves in both cases satisfied this especially tough critic of salad quality, but didn’t surprise or beguile.
Mains too pleased. For my companion, the choice was one of the more innovative vegetarian dishes, which really impressed her, a regular cook of veggie food. This Middle-Eastern inspired dish brought together parsley, feta and bulgur wheat in round cakes, accompanied by red pepper escabeche and cucumber raita. So often vegetarian dishes seem like an afterthought or a lesser option: certainly not here. This light, well integrated, nutty, vibrant dish both satisfied and left my companion feeling spacious enough for dessert.
My own roast monkfish wrapped in Parma ham was also a delight: chunky but still moist fish, a salty pink skin wrap, with uber thin rounds of sautéed spud slices beneath to soak up all the drippy goodness – all surrounded by a positive touch of curry and pea in the sauce.
Our shared veg was a little overcooked, however, the flavours of each were not lost in the process. Desserts too were a good eating experience. Assiette of desserts allows one to experience the chef’s imaginative range and dexterity – so why not? These little treats were a joy: lime cheesecake with a ginger and brownie base; mini crème brûlée too was perfectly done, while the lemon curd, pavlova, mousse and dollop of walnut ice cream immediately smacked of ‘made here, not bought in’. Invariably, the very large helping of just one of these ensured my companion also was satisfied: the pavlova breaking down in the mouth into sweet strings of chewiness, brought up by bright berries.
Our wine – a Rias Baixas Atlantik Albarino 2011, €28 – kept good company through the courses. A really deep golden rich colour in the glass, its nose revealed peaches, an allure which disguised the more challenging but rewarding taste of fleshy fruit, but with a mouthwatering sour and mildly dry finish. It opened up as we went along through the courses. (Someday I’ll ring an hour early and ask for the wine to be opened before I arrive).
Siroccos was top of my list of places in Tullamore for quality food: The Blue Apron shares that spot now too.
We loved the veggie dish, the value, the service
We spent €87.90 excluding tip
The Blue Apron
Tel: +353 (0)57 93 60106