With its smart bright blue facade spelling out a welcome to passers by, you’re unlikely to miss this little restaurant near the canal and it is well worth seeking out for the interesting cooking offered by classically-trained owner-chef Kenan Pehlivan.
Inside, low key décor in tones of beige and soft blue set an understated mood and, although there isn’t room for a reception area, Sarah Pehlivan and her friendly staff are quick to welcome arriving guests, who are shown straight to their table and served iced water with lemon and mint and a choice of breads.Tables for two are on the small side for the fashionably large white plates used, but this is easy to forgive once you taste what’s served on them - and the ladder back chairs are very comfortable.
Menus cover all bases, yet succeed in offering something different. Meats from local butchers PJ Grennan feature in many dishes - steaks are always in demand, for example, and you'll find great ones here (aged 10 oz Irish dry aged rib eye or 6oz fillet at €24, or 8oz fillet at €27, with choice of accompaniments for the fillet at a supplement). Lamb and pork are also midlands favourites - for some it has to be rack of lamb (€24) but, delicious as that always is, more unusual choices well worth trying might include slow roasted shoulder of lamb roulade (€22.50) or comforting slow roasted pulled pork with apple sauce, black pudding and root vegetables.
There's an occasional blast from the past - crispy chicken Cordon Bleu for example, which is a tasty retro dish - and, although the bias in this area is towards meats, there is good fish cooking too. (Perhaps including the ubiquitous tiger prawn, which seems at odds with a mainly local line up.) A separate vegetarian menu is also offered and includes some especially good Blue Apron specialities - starters like spiced poached pear with Cashel Blue salad, for example - and a popular main course of golden bulgar feta & parsley cakes with red pepper escabèche & cucumber raita.
A great choice of desserts will include classics done well - a very good vanilla crème brulée with orange shortbread, for example - along with more unusual treats such as a Turkish fig & hazelnut cake with frozen Greek yoghurt and honey, and there's an Irish cheese board.
A well organised wine list offers a carefully selected choice of about half a dozen each red and white, plus an elegant rosé, some bubbles and a couple of half bottles. Well priced and with very good tasting notes, it complements the cooking perfectly.
Overall, The Blue Apron continues to combine quality of food and service with good value and, while it would be nice to see more information on provenance, there is no questioning the quality of ingredients or the sound philosophy of supporting local business - and the cooking is among the best to be found in a wide area. The unusual combinations work well and, although portions may seem generous by city standards, dishes are attractively presented and an evening at this quietly atmospheric restaurant is sure to be memorable.
A must for food lovers when visiting Tullamore.