Sunday 18 January 2009

Pilu at Freshwater

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.


Kitty said...

Looks delicious.

Rachel said...

I feel stuffed and happy just reading this! Those squids are lovely.

Heather said...

your pictures are just lovely! glad you had such a special night :D

Alicia Foodycat said...

Kitty - it was! Pity I didn't have room for dessert.

Rachel - aren't they cute? I am usually scared of ordering whole squid like that because I fear they will be tough, but when there is a good chef, they are wonderful!

Heather - it was the light! Almost impossible to take a bad picture when the light is so perfect.

Sam said...

What a fantastic place for a restaurant, there's nothing quite like eating by the sea in the sunshine!

Peter M said...

Nothing beats eating outdoors and all the dishes looks delicious!

Dee said...

Read a review in Vogue Entertaining, and drooled the pages shut. Now I'm just jealous! Their infamous roast pork looks fab!

When I turned 30 dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Sigh.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Sam - it is a beautiful spot! Freshwater is a lesser known but very pretty beach.

Peter - I have decided that I have to go to Sardinia, if Sardinian food is like that!

Dee - I am going to try to get some pork to see if the recipe works for ordinary mortals!

NKP said...

You are such a culinary adventurer!
I admire your travels and tastings, you have no fear of new things and experiences.

MrOrph said...

Soooo jealous!

Everything looks delicious!

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Foodycat, you are such a romantic. I'd love to trade places with you for just one day. The ocean in the photo looks ovely. And the

Alicia Foodycat said...

Natashya - I do love to try new foods, but I am a bit of a cowardly traveller.

Mr Orph - I'd like to go back to eat the rest of the menu!

Teresa - pick your day! Today was work, an HR issue, 1/2 hour on hold to the phone company and freezing rain when I went to lunch without an umbrella!

Darius T. Williams said...

Lovely photos - and good eating indeed!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Wow! Gorgeous photos and it looks like such a delicious meal. You have me drooling right now.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Darius - thanks! I am still dreaming about that pork. And the pasta starter I had was one of the most delicious pasta dishes I've ever had.

Deb - drooling is good!


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