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Put Pilgrim’s on your camino this year. Forget the sackcloth and ashes. Maybe wear some flowers in your hair - there are gentle people there. You’re heading to the new Rosscarbery venue for a feast of the highest quality where you’ll be received with a calming courtesy.
The menu, from the local fields, nearby seas and wild places, changes from season to season, from day to day even. You won't have the biggest choices but quality shines through even if sometimes the sun doesn't.
You enter a door, surrounded by plants and flowers, and cross those big black slabs to your table - reservations advised. The menu is on just one sheet - see all the local suppliers on the rear, including the local Fish Deli, Tim Yorke from Lisheen, West Cork free range eggs, Hegarty's Cheese, Liam Ryan’s pork and more.
Small bowls of olives and nuts (with chilli) are emptied as you study the list, including a section called Nibbles, small plates to share. At the weekend we choose the Tatsuta age (sweet chicken) with Chilli Mayo. Hadn't come across this before but it is a close cousin to the commonly known Japanese fried chicken. The chicken is marinated before being dusted in a coat of katakuriko and fried in hot oil. It was absolutely delicious, the chicken so moist behind the crispy coating.
Now, we were on to the real starters. Mine was the Ham Hock, served with tomato, egg, sauerkraut, mustard butter and fried crumbs. Delightful to look at and a delight to eat, an amazing combination of flavour and textures, that free range egg, that silky butter and those crispy crumbs and, of course, the ham itself.
Meanwhile, across the table, CL was trying out the new Macroom mozarella (by farmer Johnny Lynch and renowned cheesemaker Sean Ferry). It was all oohs and aahs as she tucked into the superb cheese served with Tomatoes, Broad Beans, Basil, Kale crisps, citrus.
There are just a few starters to choose from and it is the same with the main courses. By now,
you sense that all will be excellent; you feel comfortable here, assured of the quality after your early nibbles and starter.
Brill with Samphire, peas, new potatoes, saffron pistachio butter is a stunning combination and CL is thrilled with it, especially since they served it off the bone! It is cooked on the bone of course. A popular dish here (not always with the same accompaniments) and a highly recommended one.
With a glass of the excellent Karwig's Caldora Sangiovese Merlot in hand (they also sell wines by the half glass), I picked the Pressed Lamb Shoulder, courgette, kale, broad beans, mint yogurt, tomato jam. The lamb is supplied by Sean Dennehy of Shandangin and again the combination is a cracking one, the mint yogurt giving a lovely lift to the meat.
Having come so far on this camino of cuisine, we were not for turning. Desserts were ordered. We didn't order from the pudding section, nor did we go for the Hegartys and Crozier blue (much as we love them!), but instead opted for two from the Ices Section.
Gin, the drink of the moment, featured in CL’s - I was allowed a sample and a sip of the Fentiman’s Tonic Sorbet, Lemon Confit and Cork Dry Gin. Excellent stuff. Of course there was a swap involved and I handed over a little of my Meadowsweet ice cream served with Flax Caramel Shard. Two appropriate desserts to chill down at the end of a lovely meal as the pilgrims’ progress came to an end.