I stroll through the drizzly and eerily calm streets of Galway in the wake of a post-June Bank Holiday weekend. I spot some empty bottles of Buckfast and cans of cider in the crevices of the city around the Spanish Arch, evidence of a lively and no doubt slightly hedonistic weekend had by many.
I’d been on tour in Asia for a month and had a lifetime’s worth of incredible Bánh Mì, Phở, Pad Thai and Nasi Lemak.
Much as I love all Southeast Asian food – I was really craving some Irish fare. It was nice to be back home in Ireland, good to be in Galway and even better to be going to The Michelin Star awarded Loam for dinner.
The restaurant itself isn’t exactly situated in the most glamourous part of the city. It’s nestled between two of the city’s two main bus depots and a stone’s throw from Eyre Square. I walk inside and I’m instantly impressed by its incredible interior. It’s a stunning open plan space that you see in its entirety as you walk in the door. Bog oak sculptures, large clear glass vases stuffed with wild Irish flowers and incredible wire sculptures. On the walls hang graphite and pastel designs paintings and installations by local artists which are all incredible. A really cool and funky mix of old and new, the pre-dinner seating/waiting area is almost like that of a gallery and probably one of the nicest places one could wait to get their seat. Steel beams line the ceiling and wooden boxes of moss, branches and logs that look like mini Irish forrest floors act as natural room divide, there’s an industrial feel to the space but without it feeling in any way cold.
I had a show in a couple of hours night so I opt for the ‘Simplicity Menu’ which is €45 for two courses or €55 for three. Two choices of starter, the same of mains and then a choice of one dessert or cheese. I like this simple menu that contains no more than 17 words. I’m brought to my table which I booked for one (cries while typing).
It’s just after six o’clock so it’s still quiet, normally this emphasis on my solo dining would make me feel a bit awkward as you try to tell passing people with your face that you CHOSE to dine alone and this isn’t some awkward stood-up-by-Tinder-date situation. I genuinely feel instantly comfortable here. On my table is an Irish cookbook and an old issue of ‘Lucky Peach’ food magazine for my perusal. This is such a great touch and so much better than looking at your phone, it keeps me busy and elevates my hunger as I wait for my food.
I order my appetiser and main and ask the server what wine would suit best with my choices, they expertly suggest a glass of the organic French Domaine Zinc (2017) that’s crisp, fresh and citrusy.
Before my appetiser arrives I am gifted with a trilogy of amuse-bouche. The first is a smoked Knockanore cheese (made in County Waterford) in light bite-sized pastry that melts and gives me an instant mouthgasm, this is followed by a punchy and fresh pickled herring and dill gribiche and finally a pallet cleansing beetroot and apple on a beautiful Connemara stone.
I’m brought some warm fresh baked sourdough and mixed seed soda bread served with some bright yellow room temperature country butter sprinkled generously with course flakey sea salt, it takes every bit of restraint in me to not devour this Blasket Island-esq basket of carbs. The soda bread is straight up the best I’ve ever tasted. The kitchen galley is exposed and the chefs visibly work hard, calmly and carefully, the restaurant starts to fill up fast and you can see regular customers excitement at being back here, I can already see why.
My ‘Sweetbreads, onion, egg’ appetiser arrives.
Sweetbreads, contrary to popular belief, are not animals testicles, they are a thymus gland and essentially offal and when prepared right are extremely delicious. If your squeamish about offal dining then I’d ease into it by trying a dish like this first (maybe not if you’re vegan!) The creamy, savoury and delicate morsels that work so well with the incredibly semi -soft unctuous egg yolk, sweet and caramelised whole halved baby onions, garnished with a fresh micro salad of slightly peppery local watercress. I’d have eaten ten of this course in a row if I could, I mop up every drop of leftover juices with the still-warm buttered homemade bread. This is pure food porn in appetiser form.
Next up is the ‘John Dory, Cauliflower & Mussel’ John Dory is probably my favourite fish and this dish does not disappoint, it’s expertly cooked, each of the three pieces in the portion flaking gently under the lightest fork pressure. It comes with some delicate savoury oyster mushrooms, the nutty roasted yet tender cauliflower florets, sweet, plump, shelled Irish mussels and some fresh brassica (wild native cabbage) it’s all finished with a light butter foam. A native fish dish of perfection, served with buttery, waxy new potatoes with some simple fresh chives.
The final course choice was simple, ‘Cheese’ or ‘Sheep’s Milk, Rhubarb & Lovage’
Had I not already had the amazing cheese puff hors d’oeuvre then I probably would go down this road at the end of a meal but diversity is key when food is involved so I opt for the latter. The dessert is visually stunning, the sheep’s milk ice cream is creamy with a slight sourness which works so well with the sweet lovage oil dollops, soft spongy mousse and foam. All this lays atop a bed of white chocolate crumbly goodness and the addition of the tart rhubarb compote makes this whole thing a complete winner, I demolish every bit.
This was a meal I will never forget, from its incredible use of Irish produce, to the attention to detail in every design aspect, to the passionate, knowledgeable and friendly staff and the display of stunning work by local artists. I opted for the simple menu but there is an option of a 7-9 course tasting menu that I will definitely be returning here to try. The quality of the experience far surpasses the price in my opinion. This place is very, very special.
Loam has already become an institution in Galway city, winning and retaining its Michelin star since 2016, I would confidently put it up against any of the finest restaurants in the world. Special mention to the eclectic mix of background music which became the soundtrack to my dining experience, it varied from chilled out electro beats to 80’s power ballads and even some classics by the likes of The Strokes. If they had a Spotify playlist they would certainly have a new follower. Overall, for me it’s a solid 10/10, My only regret is that I didn’t stay here longer and eat more of their incredible dishes. As a dining experience it’s beautiful, simple, stylish and truly Irish.
Take a bow Loam, you have earned it.