Countless times we have talked about our ‘list’ so why should we stop now? There are many great places out there that have been around for ages, before this fad or that fad, yet somehow never end up being talked about. Pilu at Freshwater is one of those places and a place that has been on our list for far too long.
Giovanni opened Pilu at Freshwater in 2005, a restaurant housed within a heritage-listed weatherboard beach house overlooking Freshwater Beach on the northern beaches of Sydney. The restaurant has been awarded two chef’s hats every year since opening when it also took out ‘Best New Restaurant’ in the SMH Good Food Guide 2006.
Lex was lucky enough to receive a voucher for Sydney Seafood School for her birthday, which was quickly converted into a session with the man behind the Freshwater icon, Giovanni Pilu. It was a great class and really made us think about why we hadn’t been to Freshwater to sample Giovanni’s dishes. Coming to the rescue was Em, we’d missed her birthday while we were in New York so a belated birthday lunch was in order and Pilu at Freshwater the perfect venue.
Situated right on Freshwater Beach (well, as close as it gets) the restaurant is light and airy with a perfectly suited beachfront theme – think blues, whites, floorboards, cane chairs, candles and stunning floral arrangements. Overlooking the beach guests are treated to a spectacular water view and the most relaxed two hat dining experience in Sydney.
‘Carta di Musica’, ricotta, truffle abbamele, Sardinian olives and a selection of Pilu salumi ($19.00).
While we took our time to choose between the menus our waiter suggested a salumi plate. What arrived was quite a selection! Foremost was the Sardinian bread ‘carta di musica’ in all its thin and crispy glory. There was ricotta in a truffle honey and salumi adorned with pickled white onion and dotted with a few tiny cubes of chilli salumi. Hiding beneath the bread were Sardinian olives and if it weren’t for the spicy salumi they would have won my heart.
Mid-way through our salumi plate we had decided on the ‘Menu Sardo’ – the 7 course tasting – which may sound all too familiar for these degustation lovers but it was not what we had intended on settling on. A few Em friendly tweaks meant that we could all enjoy our lunch with nothing on the menu not to our liking. But before the menu could get underway the amuse bouche arrived.
Menu Sardo – 7 courses – $120.00 per person / with matching wines $195.00 per person
- Scampi, pickled cauliflower, cime di rapa and horseradish cream
(NV Sella e Mosca ‘Terre Bianche’ Brut – Alghero DOC)
- Pecorino consommé, hand rolled fregola, green peas, asparagus and smoked pumpkin oil
(NV Dettori ‘Renosu’ – Romangia IGT DOC)
- Malloreddus, Coronga lamb ragu and aged balsamic vinegar
(2012 Pala ‘Silenzi’ – Isola dei Nuraghi IGT)
- Salmon – cooked over coals, eggplant, pimento peppers, sweet chilli and seafood broth
(2011 Contini ‘Karmis’ – Bianco Tharros IGT)
- Free range roasted suckling pig, served on the bone
(2011 Mesa ‘Primo Rosso’ – Carignano del Sulcis DOC)
- Limoncello granita, ginger jelly and olive oil sorbet
- Sardinian fried pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm chestnut honey
(2010 Dolianova – Moscato di Cagliari DOC)
Scampi, pickled cauliflower, cime di rapa and horseradish cream.
NV Sella e Mosca ‘Terre Bianche’ Brut – Alghero DOC.
Poached and then finished with a blowtorch, the scampi were elegant and mesmerising, such clean flavours but the char made for a depth poaching alone could not achieve. Lightly pickled cauliflower retained its peppery tone and went so well with the scampi. I initially thought the horseradish may be overbearing but it was creamed so well it complimented the cauliflower and in turn the scampi extremely well.
Pecorino consommé, hand rolled fregola, green peas, asparagus and smoked pumpkin oil.
NV Dettori ‘Renosu’ – Romangia IGT DOC.
Before the consommé arrived to finish the dish I was in awe. The hand rolled fregola looked superb, hints of green pea and asparagus were evident and it looked good enough to eat as is. But it was most definitely the pecorino consommé that made the dish what it was. Poured over, melting the shaved cheese and bringing the subtle hints of the pumpkin oil to the surface we all could not stop grinning from ear to ear while eating this dish.
I was completely dumbfounded at the depth of the consommé – it was all encompassing yet never overwhelming. I knew from that moment forth if I were ever sick it was not chicken noodle soup I would crave, but a lovely pecorino consommé.
Malloreddus, Coronga lamb ragu and aged balsamic vinegar.
2012 Pala ‘Silenzi’ – Isola dei Nuraghi IGT.
It seemed fitting to follow my all-time favourite vegetarian dish with something a little meatier. Never had I seen lamb ragu so light and soothing. No big red of tomatoes or anything to spoil the complexity, just clean flavours with a hint of a wonderfully aged balsamic. Compared to the last dish the list of ingredients were limited but this didn’t stop the lamb matching the consommé for full on purity. There was no mistaking this was a lamb ragu done superbly, as soft as imaginable with the malloreddus pasta cooked impeccably, we all enjoyed this dish immensely.
Salmon – cooked over coals, eggplant, pimento peppers, sweet chilli and seafood broth.
2011 Contini ‘Karmis’ – Bianco Tharros IGT.
What is a lunch by the beach without some fish? I’ve never been one to order fish and I don’t eat it at home all too often, but if I could cook salmon this well I would eat it every week. The gentle cooking over coals made this dish leave a lasting impression, such a soft cooking technique ensuring the salmon was in perfect shape and bursting with flavour. The broth was leaps and bounds above anything I had imagined, the peppers melded with the seafood making for a suitable fusion between the way the salmon was cooked and the smoky essence from the chilli.
Free range roasted suckling pig, served on the bone.
2011 Mesa ‘Primo Rosso’ – Carignano del Sulcis DOC.
Arriving on a massive piece of cork the suckling pig was a definite wow dish. You could just see how crispy the skin was, and a light tap with the back of a fork confirmed just how crispy it was. Not wanting to wait I broke off some crackling and got munching, it was as good as it looked and sounded, not soft or stodgy just pure crispy heaven.
Suitably impressed it was the rest of the pork that really made the dish what it was, super soft and jam packed with flavour with my only qualm being that it was a little too dry to be perfect. Our plates came with three slices of gorgeous scented apple, a vibrant salsa verde and a sweet mustard fruit puree. Each capable of adding its own twist to every bite of pork.
Alongside the pork was a huge bowl of boiled potatoes, skin on and finished in a pan with butter, rosemary and caramelised onions. This was ‘the’ dish Em was waiting for, not the pork, the spuds of course. Hints of rosemary and soft sugars of the onions were mindful additions and the sprinkling of fresh parsley was equally adept at giving the butter something to balance it out.
Limoncello granita, ginger jelly and olive oil sorbet.
Em loves ginger pre-desserts (well, at least the Gingerade from Sepia) and was looking forward to this all afternoon. What she hadn’t expected was the hit of sour from the granita. Mouth puckering on its own, combined with the olive oil sorbet it mellowed out nicely. Blobs of ginger jelly adding a savoury spicy note to a refreshing palate cleanser.
Sardinian fried pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm chestnut honey.
2010 Dolianova – Moscato di Cagliari DOC.
Presented as a single pastry, reminiscent of a UFO, I wasn’t sure whether this would sit on the overly sweet side of the fence or be more of a Dylan friendly dessert. Warmed chestnut honey added a level of complexity to the dish with a spiciness quite different to other types of honey. The pastry itself was lovely and short, the filling a soothing blend of wonderfully creamy ricotta punctuated with sweet sultanas. A very Italian dessert that took me by surprise and left me wanting more.
Gone are the days when it was macchiatos all round, we have now moved on to the serious end of the line, it is now espressos all round. Extracted quite well there was a seriously good crema and it went down ever so well.
Nougat and chocolate truffles, don’t mind if I do. I love homemade nougat, and this was as good as any I’ve ever eaten. Pistachios and cherries work so well in the sugary and chewy sweet. While not a huge fan of chocolate truffles I quite enjoyed these, leaning a bit more to the dark side they were the right amount of bitter and sweet and went ever so well with the espresso.
Another pretty special birthday meal and another restaurant ticked off the list. Pilu at Freshwater really resonated with me, the food was contemporary and vibrant, fine dining without being over the top and above all the Sardinan flair was evident in all the dishes. Giovanni has created something quite special and a place I would happily return to time and time again.
P.S. Happy Belated Birthday Em ! ! !
Pilu at Freshwater
On The Beach, Moore Road
Freshwater NSW 2096
(02) 9938 3331
Pilu at Freshwater Website