Loam Restaurant is Galway’s newest Michelin Star. Loam is the creation of Enda McEvoy, who originally hails from Cavan, but has cooked in Galway for some years now. You may well be familiar with the name; he was cooking in Aniar when they first won their star some three years ago.
Loam is an evocative word. It reminds me of rich soil, of the smell of freshly dug earth, and of the plants and vegetables that will spring from it. This isn’t an accident, Loam is a celebration of produce; sourcing great ingredients, treating them with respect and letting them do their thing while adding just the right amount of work to make them the best they can be.
The room is open and modern and looks like the kind of space a contemporary art gallery would occupy, but while it could have all gone a bit Berlin or Scandi, there's a warmth here. There are low flying box lights and planters which are packed like a Connemara ditch with local plants, and double as moveable room dividers. The walls are a warm blue grey. To the front of the room is a bar area, where you can enjoy a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate, A wooden bar runs along one wall, and the kitchen is open, with the pass to the front, and as we arrive McEvoy is shelling eggs, and we pass a few words before taking our seat.
We are seated in the centre, and have already decided on the tasting menu so a trio of amuse bouche gets us set up along with a selection of brown and soda breads, with Cuinneog butter served on a rock. There’s a cone of broccoli puree with smoked salmon, a wedge of marinated cucumber and a little ball of cheese covered in crispy, smoky fried onions. Each is different, but the cheese ball is delicious, and we’re off to a flying start.
Our first course is a steak tartare with pieces of salted gooseberry and an egg yolk, beautifully presented with edible nastursiums. It is nicely judged and less punchy than some, but this purity and balance takes skill, and this was a success.
After that it’s Monkfish liver pate with mixed mushroom broth. I've never had monkfish liver pate, but think Foie Gras with a smoky, underlying fish flavour, and a clean broth - a consommé almost - with the mixed mushrooms, and you're on the right track. There’s a taste of the sea in here, along with the hedgerow. Interesting and clean, it was an imaginative dish that I'd happy have again
An homage to carrots is up next, with some clams. A large heritage carrot, cooked in butter sits on the bottom, while little carrots are dotted around, and thin discs are sprinkled on top. A red whey, chervil and clam emulsion is poured and it's a trip to childhood stories of wily Brer Rabbit, teasing Brer Fox, while munching away.
The meaty bit comes next, with partridge breast atop a parsnip puree, with the best stem celery I have ever had, and locally foraged chanterelles making an appearance.
Out first dessert is an understated cucumber and sheep’s milk yoghurt, with sorrel which sits at the bottom of a blue Galway earthenware bowl from Roundstone Ceramics. The plates are part of the meal here, there’s an inherert Galway-ness that’s hard to describe, and these rich dark blue vessels are a perfect vessel for the delicate dessert inside.
Next up is art on a plate; parsley and hyssop sponge, green and broken and dotted about our squid ink - and squid like - ice cream, all sitting on a coral shell sea bed of nuts. It’s a little seascape. Maybe this dish is the reason the room is reminiscent of an art gallery.
There are touches of the famous Noma here of course, but it’s become an evolution, so you almost feel McEvoy and the team have passed that now and are on their own journey. Pas de pastiche as my clever dining companion says.
This meal is not a succession of superlatives, rather it's a lesson in understatement; if these dishes were the written word it’s pared back prose Loved it. An authentic voice in Ireland's western foodie city.