Pilu at Freshwater Review
Situated on the golden sands of Freshwater beach with an unrivalled view across the Pacific, Pilu at Freshwater marries the best of Aussie produce with a traditional and unique Sardinian cuisine. Offering an experience like no other, and boasting two chef hats from the Australian Good Food Guide, Pilu at Freshwater is the pride of the Northern Beaches.
Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday from 12 noon
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday from 6pm
Telephone: (02) 9938 3331
Bookings: Click Here
Italian restaurants are not an endangered species by a long shot, as they thrive along the Northern Beaches. So to does the misrepresentation of one the world’s oldest and most beloved cuisines. Steeped in tradition and passion, Italian food has been adopted by many western nations but unfortunately the recipes can be lost in translation and what is left are cheap imitations.
Chef Giovanni Pilu is on a mission to change that. The Sardinian born chef is bringing the flavours of his homeland to the table in a way that is truly inspiring.
Chef Giovanni Pilu masterfully combines fresh Australian produce and meats with traditional Sardinian cuisine.
Magnificent Location on Freshwater Beach
While the food at Pilu is all about Italia, the setting is one that is truly becoming of Australia. The heritage listed building caresses the golden sands of Freshwater beach and offers an unrivalled view across the Pacific. Truly a marriage of cultures Pilu takes the best of Aussie produce and showcases it in a way that is both traditional and unique, never losing sight of it’s Sardinian influence.
Boasting two chef hats from the Australian Good Food Guide Pilu is the pride of the Northern Beaches, an icon, offering an experience like no other.
Masterchef Giovanni Pilu
The restaurant buzzes with activity, it’s a Thursday night but it feels like a weekend. Giovanni’s recent appearance on Masterchef has probably put a few more bums on seats with the restaurant filled close to capacity. The pace is fast but harmonious, waiters whizz past but everyone seems to have a sense of purpose.
The attitude of the staff is totally relaxed and down to earth, I find fine dining restaurants can often come across cold and laboured in their efforts to impress. The atmosphere has the feel of a family dinner, warm and comfortable. I just wish someone in my family could replicate the food coming out of the kitchen.
Degustation or a la Carte Menu?
There are two main options when browsing the menu. If you want the full Pilu experience you will be recommended the tasting menu which is a degustation with optional matched wines. The alternative is the a la carte menu, typical of a traditional Italian restaurant with a Primi, Secondi and Dolce. A great place to start is the Pane e Ricotta, sardinian crisp bread with ricotta truffle abbamele and olives. The truffle abbamele which is basically a sardinian truffle honey is truly amazing when coupled with the ricotta, the Catra di Musica (crispbread) is the perfect vessel for the fine flavours and the olives are fresh and flavoursome.
Prior to our entrees we are treated to an assagini which came in the form of a celeriac soup, tasty and warm it had a great creamy flavours. Served in a little tea cup with some crisp bread it’s a cute way to start the dining experience.
There are plenty of options to kick off your first course, the eggplant terrine is stunningly presented with smokey and delicate flavours. The texture is tender and silky, a very indulgent and unique dish. The zucchini flower is another excellent starter, served lightly battered with a crumbed Kinkawooka mussel with fried squid and crystal bay prawns. There is an amazing snappy freshness to this dish like everything was literally just plucked off the boat.
The battered zucchini flower is light and crispy, this is what a fisherman’s basket should taste like. The ravioli is a great option for those inclined not go for a pasta. Stuffed with goat’s milk ricotta and spinach and accompanied with a burnt butter and sage sauce topped with truffled pecorino, the ravioli is a traditional dish with rich, vibrant flavours with a great firm texture to boot.
The main courses have been designed to impress and that’s exactly what they do. First in the list is the suckling pig, the closest thing you’ll find to a ‘signature dish’ here at Pilu. It’s a two person serve so if you have your heart set on it be prepared to plead your case to your dining partner. Served on a cork platter the pig is served in numerous cuts including sausage with an assortment of veges and condiments.
The meat is oh so flavoursome and juicy but the crackling will change your life, truly an achievement of texture and taste. The apple is the standout as far as the condiments go, the sweet, spiced and stewed apple is a divine match to the pork. Everything in this dish works together perfectly, there are endless combinations of flavours to work with in this dish which helps it stay exciting and delicious right down to the last morsel.
The wagyu beef shin from David Blackmore is exceptional – slow cooked (8-hours) to tender perfection it is a winter delight. The dish which resembles a hearty stew is portioned generously and topped with a chestnut foam. The combination of texture and flavour is luxurious, this dish is like a big warm hug.
The fennel and pomegranate salad offered a fresh and crisp contrast to the dish, like a twisted caesar salad it is packed with vibrant flavours.
The dessert menu reads like a library of Italian sweets, its a tough choice but I decided to try the new kid on the block. The frangipani, a sweet, moist and dense cake served elegantly with shards of white chocolate, it tastes as spectacular as it looks. The Dopocena is a wonderfully decadent coffee and chocolate infused cocktail, an absolute cracking drink and a suitable way to finish a superb meal.
Fine Wine Selection
The wine is an experience in itself, utilising the best producers from Italy and Australia it would be hard to choose a bad drop. The staff know the list inside out which is great considering it’s quite extensive. So don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations, as every dish can be paired with an excellent wine.
The standouts include the Furlan Prosecco which is a beautifully light and crisp, a great appertivo. The Vernaccia is a fantastic white, not too sweet with great citrus notes and dry finish. Caraniangno is a fantastic medium-bodied red which matches well with the beef shin.
There are also a selection of fine Italian beers, Ichnusa being a great example of a Sardianian brew.
Warm and Relaxed Atmosphere
It’s hard or should I say impossible to fault anything at Pilu, the whole restaurant operates in a quiet, organised efficiency. What is really remarkable, though, is how they have managed to maintain this warm, wholesome and relaxed atmosphere without compromising the service or food. I felt so at home sitting in the dining room at Pilu. What you will experience at Pilu is like no other fine dining experience on offer anywhere. Stellar food that is contemporary and traditional served in a stunning but comfortable setting.
Pilu embodies the way Italian food should be served, with love, passion and dedication. There’s no red and white checkered table clothes or spaghetti bolognaise or other tired stereotypes here. Giovanni has really captured his homeland’s cuisine and brought all the best things about Italian cooking to Freshwater beach. This is a special place so save it for a special occasion as it’s not exactly a wallet friendly affair. You do get everything that you pay for and more.
This place will have you leaving not only satisfied in every way but also a little more enlightened toward the amazing world of Italian and more specifically Sardinian cooking. Pilu brings so much to the table, just make sure you can eat it all!
The Good: Great regional Italian food presented beautifully, great setting and excellent service.
The Bad: Not a cheap affair.