Brunch at Pilgrim – Hobart, Tasmania

The holiday is over and we’ve got a few weekdays free before heading back to work. So what do we do?

Make a list of the cafes and restaurants we want to try, before the real world kicks in and we fall back to reality!

As you may have guessed, so far this list has included Rin (excellent!) and Roaring Grill (odd). We attempted to get to The Winston, only to find that they don’t open for lunch on a weekend…? So next up is Pilgrim!

Up front it’s worth revealing that I do know one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Pilgrim, but I’d like to think that this hasn’t influenced my opinion of the restaurant. He also wasn’t there on the day we visited, so I can guarantee there were no favours either! 🙂

I had been to Pilgrim only a couple of times previously, but both were pre-renovations. Starting out as a coffee shop back in August 2011, Pilgrim has fast become one of the ‘go to’ venues in Hobart for those with a passion for well made coffee. One thing that has stood out over that time has been the desire to not only bring you old favourites, but to trawl the globe with unceasing vigour, searching for unique coffee beans that can be subsequently foisted onto Hobart’s coffee crowd!

The passion that these guys have for their coffee is evident, with owner Will Priestley having picked up a number of state, national and international barista awards, and Tyler Walsh (known in the business as ‘the next big thing’* ) waxing lyrical over Pilgrim’s magic beans at the slightest opportunity!

So if I’m giving these guys such massive props, why haven’t I been more often?

To be honest I’m not a big coffee drinker. Food is more my style! So the announcement that Pilgrim were expanding, in order to place a greater focus on meals, was met with much excitement and anticipation in the House o’ Clowns!

The first thing that hits you when you walk into Pilgrim is the aesthetics. I read somewhere that convicts cut the sandstone bricks that line the walls of Pilgrim.

Hipster convicts.

Coffee drinking hipster convicts!

In fact, a quick search through the Tasmanian archives proves without doubt that the third convict ship to arrive at Constitution Dock** was carrying a dozen protégés from Pasqua Rosée’s ‘Cornhill School of Coffee’. Falsely accused by their wives of:

“the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE …has…Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.”

These brave souls took their punishment on the chin and while on their London-to-Hobart cruise ship sabbatical, spent every spare minute (between lashes) researching the medicinal properties of coffee, eventually publishing their findings in the esteemed Hobart Lancet, and I quote:

“‘Tis extolled for drying up the Crudities of the Stomack, and for expelling Fumes out of the Head. Excellent Berry! which can cleanse the English-man’s Stomak of Flegm, and expel Giddinesse out of his Head.”

Sadly, they spent the term of their natural lives on an island bereft of Coffea shrubs. A worse punishment could not be imagined! So making the best of a rather poor situation, these forefathers of Tasmanian coffee culture did the only thing that WAS within their power; cutting bricks and laying the foundations for what would later become ‘Pilgrim’ and the dawn of a new era….

What was I talking about..?? Oh yeah, the aesthetics!

From the 100+ year old reupholstered seats from parliament house, to the detailed mosaics (a fantastic mix of old school technique with modern design), to the menus printed on timber palings, Pilgrim screams ‘class’. But it’s a soft scream, if that’s possible, because they’ve successfully managed to restrain themselves from crossing the line from humble hipster to self-important arrogant hipster!

Blah blah blah…I want food!

The menu is a killer!

Cured trout, spanner crab, Polish pancakes, beef cheeks, mexican tortillas…if you can’t find something on this menu that satisfies then please, take a long hard look at yourself!

Is it just me, or does that look like a camel?

I chose the sweet spanner crab and brioche, with slow eggs (cooked slow I assume…not cognitively challenged), sweet soy and corn.

Karen had the beef cheeks with slow eggs, pickled mushrooms and sourdough.

Spanner crab, eggs, sweet soy and corn

Pretty flowers!

You just have to look at that dish and know that it’s going be all kinds of awesome!

On paper I wasn’t sure how the four elements of this dish would come together, as it’s a combination I’ve never tried before. The reality is it was pretty darn good! The genius of this dish is the drizzle of soy sauce that forms the base underneath the other ingredients, giving an extra dimension and solidity to the meal that is otherwise fairly light on the palate.

The crab meat was oh so sweet, and the eggs had been poached to perfection! Together with the hint of corn and a perfectly toasted brioche, this was the perfect start to the day!

Beef cheeks, eggs and pickled mushrooms

Karen’s beef cheeks (well..not hers exactly, but the ones on her plate) weren’t quite as good as the crab in my opinion. Visually stunning, the meat had been cooked so long that it had arrived at that perfect sticky consistency! Not strong in flavour by any means, but soft and well rounded. Again, the eggs were good (one being a tad over cooked), and while I didn’t try them, Karen reported that the pickled mushrooms were nice as well. Probably the biggest gripe regarding this dish was the accompanying sourdough. Way too crunchy for Karen’s liking (which means I wouldn’t have even bothered with it, as I detest overly crunchy bread…one of my many culinary foibles), she thought the consistency of the brioche would have been preferable, as demonstrated by the odd sneaky nibble of mine!

A great dish, but not in the same league as the crab!

Regarding their service, it was friendly without being overbearing. We did have to wait a little longer than expected for menus to be brought around, with a number of groups that arrived after us having their orders taken before us. It was fairly busy at the time though, so no major gripes there.

The only other suggestion I would make to the Pilgrim crew is to add some more information to the website. Opening hours, a map and contact details are all good, but failing to include a copy of the menu is criminal in my opinion! And not just for the food. It’d also be great to be able to see what coffee specials are on offer on a regular basis. Perhaps the focus on the facebook page is deliberate, but it would seem a lost opportunity to me.

In summary, our brunch at Pilgrim was one of the best meals we’ve had in Hobart! The passion for quality and innovation that the Pilgrim team has pursued in their quest for the perfect coffee has translated to their food in the best way possible. Up there with ethos|eat drink and Frogmore Creek, it’s establishments like this that put Tasmanian food (and service) culture on the map!

Dare I say it…Pilgrim’s making…PROGRESS!!

(hoik hoik hoik…)

Taste – 5/5
Menu – 5/5
Atmosphere – 5/5
Service – 4/5
Value – 5/5

Overall – 5/5

* allegedly

** constructed in the mid-1800s, but we won’t let that get in the way of a good story

Pilgrim Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato