A pretty flower decked frontage draws admiring glances to this charming restaurant in in Rosscarbery, opened in 2015 by Sarah Jane Pearce and chef Mark Jennings, a talented duo with experience in some very interesting restaurants, both here and abroad.
Inside the style is simple and rustic - slate floor, a whitewashed stone wall, sturdy country kitchen furniture - but, as with the menus, a lot of thought has gone into the details. Bold artwork includes some with food connections - a magnificent black-faced sheep, a sleek golden apple - while gentler contributions come from bunches of drying flowers, herbs and even seaweed strung across a wall, and carafes of wild and garden flowers on tables. A lovely setting for some very good food.
The welcome is warm, prompt and efficient, with arriving guests settled in nicely with details of specials and everything that's needed to start an evening off well. Menus are changed daily according to what's freshest and best in the area, and the long list of suppliers at the back of the menu will leave you in no doubt about the Pilgrim's food philosophy.
And, on reading the short menu, where intriguing dishes are given as simple listings of ingredients, it will come as no surprise to many guests to hear that Mark has worked with Denis Cotter of Cork's famed Cafe Paradiso. While not a vegetarian restaurant, there's a focus on vegetables and foraged foods and - with at least one of the three dishes offered on each course based on vegetables, grains, nuts and local cheeses - vegetarians will be very happy here.
Better still, the cooking has a welcome simplicity too. Unlike many other chefs, Mark sees no need to overwork his cooking and his skilfully cooked dishes arrive pleasingly presented to allow the beautiful ingredients to be themselves.
Summer examples may include a stunning dish of Brill with Samphire (local seafood is hard to beat, especially when partnered with foreshore treats) peas, new potatoes and saffron pistachio butter, while meat lovers are sure to enjoy local lamb supplied by Sean Dennehy of Shandangin - Pressed Lamb Shoulder, perhaps, colourfully accompanied by courgette, kale, broadbeans, mint yoghurt and tomato jam. Similarly thoughtful side dishes could offer smoked potatoes with wild garlic and mayo in early summer or something completely different like sauerkraut.
Desserts are a little bit different here too, offering Ices and Puddings along with cheeses, which are presented individually - Crozier Blue, for example, may come with date paste and crackers. Puddings could include a Strawberry Baked Alaska but the lighter ices may suit very well at this stage and you might have to choose between unusual combinations like Meadowsweet ice-cream with Flax Caramel Shard or the delicious Fentiman's Tonic Sorbet, Lemon Confit and Cork Dry Gin.
The short, carefully selected wine list is mainly European, with quite a few available by the glass. For a compact selection there's a good choice of other drinks too, including a Fino, elderflower prosecco, a crémant de Bourgogne, and an Aperol Bicyclette (like an orange spritz), as well as apple/elderflower spritz, teas (including herbals) and coffees.
Service here is immaculate - efficiency and menu knowledge all delivered with an unhurried courtesy - and Pilgrim's gives excellent value for a very high standard of food and service in a lovely setting.
Although no longer open during the day like the former Pilgrim's Rest, the new Pilgrim's provides another reason to plan a journey around visiting this attractive little place.