Venison... a fairly recent addition to our menu but now a regular highlight. As usual it starts with a supplier who really knows their craft, in this case the sourcing and ageing of prime wild venison, and Margaret does. What she doesn't know about game isn't worth knowing, and we feel privileged to have been introduced to her. And then, Jools has developed a unique and innovative way of prepping and cooking it that results in a beautifully tender, flavoursome dish that makes the quality shine.
They're landing some cracking Lyme Bay Brill at the moment, and we're serving it with Jersey Royals, braised chicory, Charles Dowding's glorious vegetables and a Noilly Prat and Saffron sauce using Dave Paull's Hurdlebrook creme fraiche.
For our Duo of Somerset Spring Lamb Jools bones and rolls the shoulder and breast joints with garlic and rosemary, and slow roasts them 'til the fat runs - leaving the most succulent, tasty and tender roast lamb - as the perfect foil to the flash roasted loin noisette, best end or prime leg steak that completes the dish.
Jeff Cracknell's name is synoymous with the finest quality poultry is these 'ere parts and when we can get a supply of his Ducks for a few weeks - we do! Over the years we have perfected making Confit du Canard from the legs, and quick roasting the breasts to sear the fat while keeping the flesh quite rare. The combination is fabulous, and the cognac sauce that can be made from the resulting meat juices with the addition of Olive Farm's Hurdlebrook unpasteurised cream finishes the dish - and the bubble and squeak is there to mop up the sauce. More umami than you can shake a duck at.
We have a RESTAURANT TripAdvisor page too! Click here!
And we are now getting reviews on OpenTable too! Click here!
A sideways glance at the chef. Or is that a profile?
Jools claims to have had the longest and most expensive apprentiship in cheffery. 25 years of lunching (and often dining) in his previous life running an advertising studio in Soho. (The third oldest profession.) "Learning what it should taste like is the difficult bit - the rest is just technique." Direction from old friends made along the way followed by 18 years at The Pilgrims Restaurant defining and refining his repertoire has produced a distinctive style and a unique menu.
We have decided that during the week we need to allow ourselves more time to concentrate on both our evening service and our accommodation. So from the beginning of November The Pilgrims will open for Dinner from Tuesday to Saturday as usual but only open for Lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, and the last Sunday of each month of course.
And finally, again to help make Dinner at The Pilgrims as enjoyable as it can be, we are changing to ‘reservations only please’ in the evenings. Friday and Saturday lunch can be a bit hectic so booking is advisable then too if you can.
The Ultimate Sunday Lunch
On the ultimate Sunday* of every month The Pilgrims’ Restaurant hosts The Ultimate Sunday Lunch. A sirloin of beef is roasted to rare perfection, accompanied by roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding, fresh horseradish sauce, seasonal vegetables and, of course, a proper gravy. We think, in all the modesty we can raise, (admittedly not much in this instance) that it is an experience not to be missed. A la Carte dishes are also available.
If we say so ourselves Jools’ skill is in feeding a small number of people with simply wonderful food, in an unhurried manner, and that’s the way we try to make the restaurant run. Our dining guests come here to dine finely - as opposed to being attracted by promises of Faine Daining. A concept which is laudable and appropriate in the hands of a handful of chefs touched with genius, such as Raymond Blanc, but which has been abused and debased by an army of lesser cooks as an excuse for ripping off their customers
With the produce we have available to us the most important quality in a chef is restraint. Let the intrinsic quality work its magic then leave it alone. Bring out the flavours but keep it simple. Our presentation may seem a little stark, not as primped as devotees of Masterchef may expect, but Jools just can’t bring himself to ‘gratuitously garnish’ even if it fashionable.
The best from the ‘Appellation of Somerset’ on a plate
We find the word ‘local’ crops up a lot when The Pilgrims is discussed, not necessarily in the traditional pub sense, although many of our regular diners are ‘locals’ who see us as their neighbourhood restaurant. It’s more that we have become a bit of a focal point for good things produced hereabouts, a showcase for and champion of many of the wonderful artisan crafted drinks and foodstuffs from what would be the Appellation of Somerset, if there were any justice. We’re not fanatical about it, but we are more than a bit passionate. If our food is ‘Inspired’ then this is what inspires it.
This means that our menu is something of a moveable feast - changing at least monthly and often daily - with the seasonal availability of fresh ingredients. Almost all of our vegetables are locally and organically grown. Our cheeses are all made within 30 miles, they just happen to be world-class cheeses; milk and cream come from Olive Farm’s Guernsey herd, a mile away for any self- respecting crow; our bacon is from Denhay’s in Bridport; eels are smoked at Brown & Forrest on the Somerset levels; fresh fish comes direct from Bridport; Jon Thorner sources all our meat from local farms; salads are grown by Charles Dowding and most of our vegetables by a local organic co-operative. Jools makes our bread from locally milled organic spelt and wheat flours. Lovington’s Ice Creams and Cottage Brewing are in Lovington.
Slow Food? Well, it’s certainly not fast food!
With the exception of the ice cream everything we serve at The Pilgrims is home-made. Virtually nothing comes ready made out of a packet. Everything is prepared and cooked by Jools with help from Sally. Whatever you choose will be cooked to order which means that you may have to wait a little longer than we are all used to in this frenetic age. But the table is yours for the evening and although we work as quickly as we can, we assume that you would rather have something worth waiting for than “fast food”.
Families are always welcome to dine at The Pilgrims but, in our own experience, children don’t like children’s menus. So we don’t have one. And some people just have smaller appetites. Most of our main courses can be prepared in a smaller portion, for a smaller price.
Wow, what a Year!! In 2014 we were on Taste of the West’s shortlist of 5 for Best Restaurant in the whole South West - and won 'Best B&B in the South West' The AA gave us a 2nd ROSETTE! And we got TWO Gold Awards from Taste of the West! One for the Restaurant and One for the Rooms.
As you can imagine this level of commitment has led to the odd award or three. Over the years we have won Gold from Taste of the West FOUR times, (and Silver once, obviously an off day), we’ve been Somerset Life’s Dining Pub of the Year, and Jools won their Chef of the Year. We now appear in most of the serious guides and were ridiculously proud to be one of only fifty establishments in the UK to feature in Alastair Sawday’s book ‘Eat Slow’. Nowadays we don’t often enter ourselves for any awards – they are too much of a distraction. We are rigorously assessed every year by VisitBritain and the AA - achieving Four Stars, a Gold Award, TWO AA Rosettes and a Breakfast Award – which tells anybody what they need to know about us. From a more direct, subjective perspective a lot of guests have been very kind to us on TripAdvisor and our online booking site, Eviivo.