Way back in the mists of time (and I can't believe it was so long ago), I turned 30. To celebrate my birthday, Paul took me to a lovely restaurant in an old house overlooking Freshwater Beach in Sydney. We were living in Sydney at the time, so it was pretty local...
We ate delicious food - I still remember the smoked Iranian figs that came with the duck I ordered. We watched the moon rise, stretching a path over the water and had a magic evening.
That restaurant has long since closed, but the restaurant now there is Pilu, which has won any number of awards and accolades for their delicious Sardinian food.
The combination of good food, fond memories and beachside location made it a clear winner for a lunch with a couple of dear friends. The fact that a cookbook I was given for Christmas contained Giovanni Pilu's signature recipe for roast suckling pig just confirmed the wisdom of the choice. It was Meant to Be.
Once there, sitting in the wide verandah, looking down at the beach at a comfortable, airy table, an epic struggle with the menu ensued. Four foodies, ten choices of primi, five choices of secondi and the added complication of daily specials meant a long fought battle to make decisions.
Firstly, however, there was the struggle with the wine list. Pilu has won awards for its Italian-weighted list, but I have to say it was something of a slog. Pages and pages of it, without many in a sensible price bracket. I ended up choosing a Corte Giara pinot grigio from the Veneto - which was excellent and reasonably priced, but I did feel a bit backed into a corner.
Then we had to choose food.
Paul settled on calamari filled with baby squid & pinenuts. Two fat, gilded tubes appeared, bulging with the filling. He was still full of flu, but still appreciated the tender calamari and the flavours of the filling.
I opted for a dish of malloredus - little shells of saffron pasta - with discs of zucchini smaller than a pencil in diameter, tiny chunks of calamari and garnished with a grating of lovely salty bottarga. It was gorgeous. The pasta was firm to the bite, which I don't usually like, but in this case the calamari was so tender and the zucchini so soft and delicate that it really needed the firmer pasta to contrast.
Belinda's boned quail stuffed with chicken liver looked lovely. She said it was rich and delicious.
Helen's prawns with fregola (small pasta, a bit like couscous) tomato and chilli was another success. The prawns were huge and partly shelled for ease of eating.
So far, so good - it isn't often that you order 4 dishes and they are all equally successful.
The main courses were easier. Having read about the roast suckling pig, I just had to have it. Helen was of the same mind. And boy was it good!Thick slices of the most tender, buttery meat, topped with salty, rosemary-tinged crackling. Some nicely sour apple puree and some herby salsa verde completed the plate. A bit of nicely dressed green salad was all that we needed for perfect bliss.
Paul and Belinda opted for a seafood stew with crisp sheets of carta di musica. Fortunately bibs and fingerbowls were provided to help while they tackled the generous bowls of mussels, crab and prawns and splashed around in the rich tomato broth.
At this point there was no way I could have ordered a dessert. Although I was fascinated by the fried pastries filled with ricotta and served with bitter honey, I just couldn't have done it justice.
Belinda, however, pulled on her big girl pants and stepped up to a vanilla bean pannacotta with abbamele.
With our coffee (I had a perfect, icy shakerato) we were bought a dish of moist little zucchini and polenta cakes and some lovely crisp almond biscotti. Such a perfect lunch to share in good company and lovely surroundings.