In Galway’s Loam restaurant, Enda McEvoy and Conor Cockram make the illogical seem entirely logical. Mr McEvoy serves up a wee taster of beef tenderloin to start dinner in Loam. It look like a prawn cracker, and eats like a prawn cracker. But it isn’t a prawn cracker. Mr Cockram, meantime, puts peat in your pudding, alongside some black currant. Except, it isn’t peat. It isn’t the stuff that gets stuck to your boots in the bog.
Welcome to Loam, where nothing is as it seems. The strange thing about this upside-down world, however, is not that the food in Loam is strange – it isn’t. No, the signature style of Loam is this: Loam food is – almost – unbearably sensual. Look at the sauce that goes with the dish of carrot and buttermilk, for instance. It’s a reduction of carrot juice and buttermilk. But it is rendered down into such sexy sweetness that it’s startling. It’s like a kiss of flavour, rather than some standard, familiar flavour that you know, the flavour you might expect from carrots, or buttermilk. Loam is the sensual world.
This sensation reaches its zenith with Mr Cockram’s desserts. He loves things that are almost physically not there: ice cream smoked with Tullamore peat; a whiskey foam; a meringue with juniper; a gel of sea buckthorn; a mousse of dill and white chocolate; a crumb of green tea and white chocolate. Smoke. Crumb. Foam. Mousse. Meringue. To describe the sublime impact of these puddings, we need to steal a line that French winemaker’s use to describe a particularly good bottle: It’s like baby Jesus, dressed in velvet pantaloons, sliding down your throat.
Mr Cockram’s puddings are so fine that they reveal the one misstep that Loam makes: on the tasting menu with matching wines, there is no pudding wine served with the puddings, which is crazy. These sweet masterpieces are worthy of Chateau d’Yquem.
It’s commonplace to say that the food is Loam is perfect, seamlessly conceived and delivered. But our meal revealed a kitchen that has gone beyond a concept of perfect, and which now serves food that is, quite simply, magical. Loam transcends the limits of terra madre, which is some kind of beautiful irony.