"It's all about inclusivity and community": Pilgrim's founders on their first permanent restaurant

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Pilgrim's founders talk about their first permanent restaurant

Related tags: Million Pound Menu, Restaurant, Liverpool, Spanish cuisine

Jamie Duffield, Dave Bone and Anthony Power are the trio behind pop-up restaurant Pilgrim, which launched its first bricks and mortar site in Liverpool’s new Duke Street Market food hall having secured investment through an appearance on BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu.

How did you originally come up with the concept?
The idea for Pilgrim originally came from Jamie, who walked French Way of the Camino de Santiago in 2017. Walking through the different regions of Northern Spain, he was fascinated by how diverse the produce and flavours of these regions were from one another, and how using the many routes of the Camino de Santiago would be a great way for a restaurant to explore regional Spanish cuisine.

How did the opportunity to appear on My Million Pound Menu come about?
We were about to begin a six-month residency in Hackney, but we stepped away from it after the landlord tried to increase the rent. In the lead up to that residency, we worked with a PR company who subsequently sent over the application details for Million Pound Menu. We sat on it for more than a month, hesitating about whether it was right for us or if there was even a chance of getting a response. But eventually we did send it, and within a couple of hours the production company contacted us.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt while taking part on the show?
Having had the set back of the London residency and the financial implications of that, the show was pretty much our last chance to get Pilgrim off the ground. The three of us were on verge of not having the financial capacity to continue pushing Pilgrim. Million Pound Menu and the opportunity given to us by [investors] Graffiti Spirits Group changed everything. The fact we thought about giving up, and yet here we are preparing for the launch of our permanent restaurant speaks volumes about never giving up on something you feel passionately about.

How has securing a permanent location helped you to develop Pilgrim’s menu?
We’ve always had an affinity for the asador restaurants of Northern Spain. Aside from the occasional use of a barbecue, however, we’ve never had the chance to properly explore this style of cooking before. In our new restaurant though, we have a huge open fire and it has been a game changer in terms of menu development.

You describe your food as being ‘radically seasonal’, what does that mean?
Ant coined this term. It’s about constantly changing the produce we use to ensure what we’re serving is the most seasonal it could possibly be. We’re fortunate to have connected with some amazing farmers in the North West to ensure that we stay radical.

Your tasting menu has an unusually low price point, was this important to you?
Our whole ethos at PIlgrim is about inclusivity and community. The huge price tags that come with the majority of tasting menus are the opposite of that. They’re pointed at being exclusive and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that we want to open our restaurant up to as many people as possible. It’s a philosophy that comes direct from the Camino de Santiago; when you’re walking any allusions to class, race, wealth, religion are stripped away. Everyone walks the same path in the same direction, they eat together and they sleep in the same rooms together.

Pilgrim's barbecued octopus tentacle with guindilla pepper salsa

Is Pilgrim a fine-dining restaurant?
We wouldn’t consider Pilgrim to be a traditional fine-dining restaurant, as that term is synonymous with a level of pretension and stuffiness that we wouldn’t want to consign ourselves to. But there are certainly elements of fine-dining within our menu: Dave likes to describe us as “rustic refined”.

Why Liverpool?
The move to Liverpool came off the back of our appearance on My Million Pound Menu. We were offered the site within Duke Street Market, and while it was a big decision to uproot ourselves and move, we haven't looked back. Liverpool is home now, and it’s a city with an anthem that suits our concept perfectly.

How do you view Liverpool’s restaurant scene?
It’s impossible not to be excited about what’s happening in Liverpool at the minute. Although we’re new to the city, it’s easy to see how the dining scene is exploding and we’re happy to be a part of that.

What are your plans for the future?
The scope with Pilgrim as a concept is pretty large, and we’d certainly like to open another if it feels right. At the minute we are focusing on the routes of the Camino de Santiago, but there are pilgrim routes all over the world. When Jamie was on his pilgrimage he met a man who was walking to Jerusalem, so maybe we’ll see where that road takes us… 

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