Ah, Galway. Every time I visit the city – and that doesn‘t happen nearly often enough – I promise myself that I won’t leave it so long next time.
This time I really mean it, though, and that’s despite the fact that I didn’t so much get rained on as bucketed-down on during my day and a bit there last month. But I also got a taste of better days to come, in the shape of a vibrant green purée made with tenderleaf spinach and ramsons.
It was spring in liquid form, and was just what I needed to remind me that this never-ending winter will, in fact, end one day. It had arrived with lamb’s tongue, salsify and some lightly-charred greens as the fifth course in Enda McEvoy’s seven-course tasting menu at Loam.
He also serves a nine-course tasting menu, and I’m sorry I didn’t order it, because almost everything I ate in Loam – a zen-like space near Eyre Square that opened in November 2014 – was flawless.
I was with a Galwegian whose enthusiasm for his native county’s food scene is infectious; thanks to him, I now have a list a mile long of places to visit there. He’s a big fan of Loam, which has held a Michelin star since 2015, and which last year won the inaugural Michelin Guide UK and Ireland sustainability award.
Key to McEvoy’s ethos is working very closely with small suppliers like Castlemine Farm, Velvet Cloud and Ballyhoura Mushrooms. The latter’s shiitakes lent deep flavour to the broth in which he served the squid noodles which have been on the menu in some shape or form since he opened. The noodles – which hid a gooey egg – and the broth were seasoned with kombu and smoked fish.
Between that and the kelp that had come with the first course – mackerel that had been coated in a glaze made out of the roasted bones of the fish – I reckoned my vitamin and mineral levels were rising rapidly.
Lest that all sound too healthy, indulgence was on the way in the form of a butter that McEvoy had made by roasting, rendering, salting and smoking bone marrow, freezing it, then grating it over the top of beef tartare. Lovely little pickled onions cut the richness, and that Castlemine Farm beef was some of the best I‘ve tasted in ages.
The only duff note of the night was some underdone pumpkin that came with yogurt made in-house with Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk and kale. Not to worry, though, because McEvoy’s new pastry chef, Chicago native Lauren Goudeket, had some real treats in store for us.
The first of those was a pre-dessert of candied beetroot slices with a rose mousse and rhubarb sorbet, and the last were petits fours of brown butter madeleines and mini jam doughnuts.
In between came a vegetable-based dessert that was just as wonderful as the one made with celery by Grainne Mullins that featured on these pages a couple of weeks back as part of my review of the Food For Thought benefit dinner.
I could get used to these veggie sweet courses, especially when they‘re this good. Goudeket had used Jerusalem artichokes to make an ice-cream, then served it with a sunflower seed sable and a divine miso caramel.
Some pear jam and crunchy artichoke slices topped off this innovative, full of flavour dessert from an exciting young chef who is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Including snacks of gougeres stuffed with smoked cheese, apple and duck liver parfait tarts, and some celeriac and potato cakes, we paid €78 per head for our food, with water and wine, bringing our total bill to just over €206.
The portion sizes were perfect for me – I left feeling full but not overly stuffed – but if you have a particularly large appetite, I‘d throw in an optional cheese course for a tenner.
And speaking of cheese, you can order cheese and charcuterie plates, and enjoy them with a glass of wine, in the bar area at the front of the restaurant if you don’t fancy a full meal.
The lovely staff (the service was warm and relaxed all night) will be more than happy to give you some recommendations on what to drink. Spending even an hour in Loam will put a smile on your face; it certainly put a smile on mine.