Enda McEvoy, the chef responsible for putting Galway on the international dining map, finally opened this much anticipated venue late in 2014 and it soon became the toast of the town.
Located in a stretch of industrial glass buildings just off Eyre Square, this modern casual and fine dining hybrid is a few steps below pavement level on the shoulder of the hill between Forster Street and the water.
While some of the architectural features betray its original purpose as a space designed for office and retail units, what could be a cavernous room is cleverly separated into three sections with lights and planters filled with bog oak and greenery. From the decor to the serving plates everything has been carefully chosen to evoke the forests, seashores and landscapes of the West.
An informal wine bar area just inside the door is an inviting spot, where waiting staff in smart taupe aprons glide between tables with an appealing mish-mash of seating, Here you can casually drop by to sip something from the Old World wine list - mostly organic and biodynamic, a few available by the glass - and nibble from the snack menu.
Pickled plums or smoked mussels in mustard, perhaps, or try the daily local charcuterie board with Connemara air-dried lamb and pickled calves tongue, or an unpasteurised cheese selection. Boards come in two sizes, small or large and are priced accordingly.
The main dining area is set with the chairs facing the open kitchen, all the better to watch the show. There is a short à la carte 'Simplicity' menu, meticulously seasonal, with a choice of just three or four fairly priced dishes per course ('Small', 'Larger' and 'Sweeties').
However, the tasting or 'Current' menu is the star. It must be ordered by the entire table and features six courses at around €60, or €90 with clever wine pairings. Dishes of native oyster, cauliflower, elderberry and buttermilk or brown crab, split pea, celeriac, and dillisk.
In the restaurant they serve focused, creative cuisine plated with artistry on tactile ceramics. A morsel of reindeer moss, like candy floss crossed with crackling, melts away to nothing in an instant but will be remembered forever. In another dish an astonishing array of textures and subtle flavours is coaxed from the workaday ingredients of potato and egg, transforming them into a bowl of comfort and joy.
Desserts by chef Conor Cockram are similarly exceptional – a smoked crumble with grilled pear and whiskey ice cream, for example, is unreasonably good. The coffee is a 3FE blend which you are encouraged to drink forgoing milk and sugar to fully appreciate the roast, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
What McEvoy and his team have made at Loam is a destination restaurant that manages to walk the tightrope between casual and fine dining, and in Loam he has captured a little bit of the magic of the west of Ireland. There is more than a touch of alchemy at work in this kitchen.