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Jun 06

Pilu at Freshwater

Pilu at Freshwater, selected as 2006’s best new restaurant by the SMH GFG, overlooks Harbord beach, in Harbord. I had never even heard of Harbord before tonight (it’s in the northern beaches area and is a bit remote for anyone coming from south of the harbour). Pilu opened up about two years ago when its owner decided to move from his old restaurant down near the Spit Bridge. The restaurant is converted from a beachside house and they’ve turned what must have used to be the outside balcony into part of the interior so there’s two mismatching decors to the restaurant. Unfortunately at night there’s no view outside, but I imagine during the day you can see the beach and ocean.

Pilu serves solid, good tasting Sardinian cuisine which hasn’t been modernised by zealous use of food processors or courses embedded with unidentifiable foods you’ve never heard of before. They offer an “off-menu” 6-course degustation menu at $100 per head, but they are also happy to let you construct your own tasting menu. The latter option allows the opportunity to try out more dishes at a cheaper price, but may be unwieldy if you have a large dining party. There were only two of us, so we selected a seven course meal consisting of five entrees, two mains and a side salad. We decided to skip dessert (they seemed to be pretty standard fare). Oysters started the meal, followed by whitebait and prawns, deboned quail, saffron pasta with clams and chilli, ravioli stuffed with boar which was apparently cooked for three hours beforehand, slow roasted pork and 150-day aged beef with Jerusalem artichokes and caramelised onions. All excellently done. I would highly recommend the saffron pasta! In a bit of gluttony (a phenomenon Chinese call “wide eyes, tight stomach”), we had ordered one dish too many and finishing the last course was an uncomfortable struggle. Serving sizes are fairly large, again debunking the myth that fine dining equals miniscule portions.

The restaurant has a laid-back atmosphere and the service is informal, relaxed but professional. Our waiter patiently took our order, and divided some of the dishes we ordered at the table (eg, they have to cook the beef as one chunk, and they carefully carved the chunk into two pieces for us after they brought it out to our table). The only issue was that at about 8pm they dimmed the lights so that we almost couldn’t see what we were eating (we were in the balcony area, the main area was still well lit).

The seven courses, one side and drinks were $96 per person (plus tip) which is clearly better value than the degustation menu. A big thanks to my cousin for shouting the meal for my 25th!