At the helm of Galway’s Michelin-starred Loam since 2013, Enda McEvoy was crowned the Best Chef in Ireland last year. He tells Imogen Lepere where else to eat on the Emerald Isle
Where did you last go away and what was the food like? - Copenhagen. I lived there while I was working at Noma but it was great to go back with my kids and explore all the quality mid-range restaurants that are opening. Our meal at Relæ was so stylised and pared back, like Danish culture. The 20-course tasting menu at Kadeau was well paced and only had produce from Bornholm island, like razor clams and mushrooms.
What sort of food did you eat as a child? - I grew up in Virginia, a small town on the banks of Lough Ramor. My parents grew vegetables for suppliers and I would snare rabbits in the woods, so we mostly ate these with potatoes and cabbage. One of my earliest food memories is camping on an island in the lough and fly-fishing for trout with my dad. I still remember the taste of it: cooked over a fire with plenty of butter.
What’s so special about West Ireland’s natural larder? - The mountains of Connemara are 20 minutes from Galway and the lamb there is excellent. The animals jump from crevice to crevice, so the meat is beautifully marbled without being fatty. Ancient woodlands to the east of the city mean local foragers can provide us with wild mushrooms that have been picked less than half an hour ago. Just beyond the Aran Islands there’s a bank where huge langoustine and sea urchins grow in the clean water. Kelly’s oyster bed supplies us with native oysters, which I serve in a razor clam broth or with fermented gooseberries.
Why is sourcing ingredients locally so important to you? - It forces me to be creative and minimise waste. For example, I make a West Irish ramen with squid from Donegal, frozen then sliced like noodles and served in broth with an egg, seaweed and burnt onions. Eighty per cent of our vegetables come from one farm so when their crop failed last year there were six weeks where I had to make dishes out of flowers and roots.
Which hidden gems do you take your brigade to in Galway? - Jess Murphy loves feeding people. Her restaurant, Kai Café, always has a queue and is particularly good for brunch. Biteclub serves excellent street food such as burritos, while The Dough Bros are my go-to for pizza. Sheridans Cheesemongers champions Irish producers who use raw milk. I like to sit in the wine bar there on a Saturday and look out over the market.
What are the best restaurants in Ireland right now? In - Dublin, Forest Avenue is the best restaurant at the moment. Round the corner, Forest & Marcy does fantastic sharing plates. The chef at OX in Belfast is really good, while Bastible in Dublin does casual, well-conceived food. Inis Meáin on Inishmaan, the smallest of the Aran Islands, is a sparse, well-designed restaurant and guesthouse that looks over the Atlantic.
This article was published on 21st June 2017 so certain details may not be up to date.