As a very belated birthday present and congratulations on my recent admission as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of NSW, the Sister and her fiance offered to take me out for lunch, as is customary with celebrations involving yours truly. As I have mentioned on previous occasions, I’m much more of a person who appreciates experiences over monetary gifts, and a beautiful restaurant meal shared with good company is something I exquisitely appreciate.
I suggested we visit Pilu at Freshwater in the Northern Beaches locality. With two chef hats, suckling pig on the menu and the venue situated on a hill overlooking the sprawling expanse of Freshwater Beach, we booked about a fortnight in advance to secure ourselves a table at this highly sought-after restaurant.
Parking is in the rather small (timed) beach car park, which I imagine would be highly crowded when the weather is nice. Fortunately it was a slightly overcast day so the only people around were overly-keen surfer types. It was raining at that time, and it was with relief when we came along the restaurant’s garden path and into their small reception room downstairs.
It’s a fine-dining restaurant with a close friend’s living room fusion, with white tablecloths over padded tables, highly polished wine glasses, but then there is also the coloured stain-glass on door panes and timber ceiling structure which gives the interior a beachy, relaxed feel.
Three courses on a Saturday is at a set price of $89 per person. Selecting your food is an easier task than looking at the wine list, which extended over 35 pages; full of wines with names I could barely pronounce, let alone imagine what they tasted like. The Sister went for the house mocktail on the list, a very, very light combination with chamomile and limonata ($13).
I particularly enjoyed my Riviera ($19), a mix of Hendrick’s gin, lemon liqueur, blood orange cordial, fresh orange juice and basil. While you could still distinctly taste the gin, the fresh orange juice was thirst-quenching and the basil gave the cocktail a delicious summery essence.
Once we made our order, we were brought out warm bread rolls with extra virgin olive oil and rock salt. We were ravenous and ate all of our rolls, and our waitress was particularly nice enough to ask if we wanted more bread before bringing us more.
We also received a little amuse bouche, compliments of the chef: a little spoon of delicious shaved pork loin. It was sliced so thinly and the flavour so delicate, the fat from the loin literally melting away on the tongue.
Our entrees arrived speedily, the Culurzones con burro, salvia e salsa di tartufo, or Ravioli of potato, mint and pecorino with burnt butter, sage and black truffle paste ($28) arriving first.
The ravioli was thin and doughy, encasing the light-as-air mashed potato and pecorino mix. It would have been almost on the mono-flavour side were it not for the sage burnt butter sauce and the characteristic slight pungent fragrance of the black truffle paste.
The tables unanimous favourite of the two entrees however, was the Scampi, mais, pompelmo e burro alla bottarga, or the Scampi, with char-grilled baby corn, grapefruit and bottarga butter ($28).
The scampi tasted incredibly smoky but yet was still juicy and springy, almost like a sashimi. We asked how the scampi had been cooked to retain so much moisture, and they proudly answered that it had been lightly blow-torched to its state of perfection. So good!
Our Secondi was the Porcetto arrosto e salsiccia fatta da noi: oven-roasted suckling pig – various cuts, served on the bone with traditional farm house suckling pig sausage, pinzimonio, seasonal vegetables and potatoes ($100 for two). Pilu’s pork comes from pigs sourced from Melanda Park on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, kept in free range conditions. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement.
The side vegetables included lightly cooked carrot, zucchini, celery and fennel. On our plates we had the condiments, including an apple sauce and salsa verde.
The pork flesh was deliciously tender and moist, although slightly on the too-salty side. The crackling was beautifully crunchy and crisp. It was interactive and interesting to have so many accompanying condiments and sides, allowing you to mix and match to achieve different flavours with each bite.
Next, onto dessert – the course I always await with much anticipation. I had selected the Pesche, budino al cioccolato bianco, gelato al caramello salato ($18), being the white chocolate budino, grilled peach, Brazil nut granola, red currants and salted caramel.
The salted caramel gelato balanced the sweetness in the white chocolate budino perfectly. My only issue was that with the presence of granola it tasted overwhelmingly like I was eating breakfast; and it almost felt like I was having something healthy – something which I’m sure definitely wasn’t!
We shared the other dessert, the Seadas di ricotta con miele di castagne ($18), the Sardinian pastry with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm chestnut honey.
The pastry was perfectly crispy, flaky and quite hard to share once you sampled a little piece. I did find that there was a bit too much honey though, and the dish almost screamed of being overly sweet. A big dollop of cream, ice cream, or more ricotta would have served to counterbalance the excess sweetness.
The Sister also ordered an Amedei Hot Chocolate ($7), made with Amedei 63% hot chocolate. We were surprised at their generosity in bringing three of each petit four to the table, when we had only ordered the one hot chocolate. The petit fours were little pieces of tiramisu cake and bite-size doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar.
For a moment when the chocolate arrived we thought it was actually in a plastic cup with the way the cup had concaved and was alarmed at a hot drink being served in plasticware. We touched it and laughed in surprise as it was actually smooth ceramic! How artistic. The chocolate was smooth, milky, but not particularly heavy on the chocolate; you probably should go for the traditional Italian hot chocolate, which is served with whipped cream, for a true chocolate hit.
A beautiful restaurant in a beautiful location. Having dined at a number of restaurants in my time, I will say that I do think Pilu is a little overpriced for what it was. My favourite stand-out dishes were the entrees and the mains, however the sore let down was unfortunately the desserts – something which I obviously consider as being one of the most important issues.
…And last, but not least – congratulations to Michelle Wang, who has won a double pass to next weekend’s Cake, Bake & Sweets Show. I hope you have an absolute blast! xx
Pilu at Freshwater
On the beach, Moore Road
Freshwater NSW 2096
(02) 9938 3331