This is a review I wrote for the Irish Mail on Sunday, last August, 2015. Pilgrim’s is a very fine little restaurant based in Rosscarbery, in West Cork, owned and operated by chef Mark Jennings and his partner, Sarah-Jane Pearce, who runs front of house. It took just a single meal for it to be instantly installed as one of my most favourite dining establishments around, offering some genuinely original interpretations of superb local, seasonal produce in a wonderfully zen-filled setting.
It has taken The Swashbuachaill some weeks to recover from his recent foray back into the professional culinary world when he presented a nine-course menu in the magnificent surroundings of Uillinn, home of the West Cork Arts Centre, in Skibbereen, as part of the Taste of West Cork food festival. He was delighted and honoured to be invited by chairperson Helen Collins and the festival team to participate in this wonderful celebration of some of the finest food to be found anywhere in the world and it was billed as ‘The Menu Cooks The Menu” a nod to his epicurean alter ego and the title of his weekly food column, The Menu, in The Irish Examiner, the idea being to showcase some of the very splendid Irish produce he features each week in the aforementioned publication.
On a mid-afternoon in early December, winter-weak light already fading and a damp cold sucking the life out of bones, you’d imagine any right-thinking folk would have taken to the fireside with a pile of logs, a stack of papers and a nice hot toddy. But, no, through the doors of the West Cork Hotel, in Skibbereen, they flowed in an unwaveringly steady stream until the large reception hall was nicely full, buzzing with life and laughter.
By 4pm, the place was jampacked, collars were opened, coats discarded and some serious inroads being made into wine, cava and highly toothsome nibbles courtesy of chefs Mickael Viljanen of Gregan’s Castle, Co Clare and Rory O’Connell of Ballymaloe – all in all, the equal of any cosy fireplace and a helluva lot more stimulating than the Sunday papers. Continue reading →