A model of consistency

Bob
Bob Gray
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Richard Court, left, and Dana Gillis help make The Pilot House in Charlottetown one of the Island’s best and most consistent eating establishments.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of any restaurant operator, as you can serve 500 great meals in a row, and then one person gets an overdone steak and the wrong potatoes, and they proceed to complain to everyone they meet about their lousy meal.

It’s tough to win.

The Pilot House, Doug Harvey’s estimable pub and restaurant on Grafton Street, is certainly the most consistent dining place I frequent, and it’s always included in any list of “restaurants you shouldn’t miss,” whenever I’m asked for recommendations.

A trip to The Pilot House is as sure a bet as you’re going to have when going out to eat on P.E.I. Excellent service, beautiful surroundings, chef Guy LeClair’s extensive and flexible menu and wonderful food — it’s a pure winner.

The Pilot House has two distinct sections — a large, busy, rollicking pub in front and a quiet, classy dining room in the back. The same menus are available throughout — a pub menu for lunches and lighter suppers and a scrumptious dinner menu with a wide range of appetizers, entrees and desserts. You can mix and match from any menu section.

I prefer the pub side of the Pilot House, and we were there for an early supper one day last week. It’s first come, first served in the pub, as far as table selection goes. We were lucky enough to get one of the booths before the usual supper crowd arrived hot on our heels and settled in.

The Pilot House is one of my favourite places for fish and chips, so that was an easy choice, and I added a cup of their great chowder to start. Earlene had a mandarin salsa shrimp dish, which was spectacular in both presentation and taste.

My deep fried haddock was wonderfully tasty, encased in a delicious crispy beer batter based on the business’s own Pilot House Ale.

Yep, even a micro-brewery, with the brewing going on in a shiny copper operation right in the corner of the pub.

It’s not often that vegetables lead the hit parade, but the vegetable medley accompanying Earlene’s shrimp was amazing — broccoli, red and orange peppers, asparagus, green and yellow squash, cauliflower, yellow and green beans, and a few sprouts of some nature — all fresh, all stir-fried perfectly, piping hot and absolutely spectacular.

The garlic sautéed shrimp was spicy, accompanied by a salsa with cilantro, lime, mandarin and cucumber. Add a serving of basmati rice, and it was nearly a faultless dish.

Meanwhile, I was loving the fish and chips, as always. We were both stuffed, but with the dessert menu beckoning, we decided to split a maple pecan pie, simply in the interests of research, of course. Sweet? In every sense of the word, and our blood sugar levels should be returning to normal just about the time you’re reading this.

Our meal came to $62.44 including soft drinks, appetizer, main courses, dessert, tea and coffee and taxes. If we had both chosen from the pub menu, it would have been much lower, as that menu might be the best value around.

You really can’t go wrong at The Pilot House, as we proved once again that night, and as I tell everyone who asks. It’s a Charlottetown treasure.

Each Friday throughout the summer, Bob Gray points readers to quality Prince Edward Island eating establishments in his Summer Savoury column. Suggestions and comments are welcome at bgray@pei.sympatico.ca. Follow him on Twitter @bgray5.

Organizations: Pilot House Ale

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Grafton Street, Charlottetown

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  • karen stanley
    September 14, 2012 - 10:58

    My husband and I along with 5 other friends had supper at the Pilot House a couple of weeks ago. Our friends had been there before but it was our first time. I was impressed with the quality of our meals. We all got different things. I had the seafood chowder and a spinach/bacon salad and my husband got the fish and chips. I will definately be going back. The prices are reasonable and the quality of the food is great.

  • Really
    September 14, 2012 - 09:24

    "chef Guy LeClair’s extensive and flexible menu " I was there a few times and I have certain food allergies. Every time, they flat out refused to make any substitutions in the 3 meals I was contemplating me so I ended up getting overdone sweet potato fries because I it was the only other thing on the menu that wanted and I knew wouldn't make me sick. Man...that's one flexible menu. Haven't been there since and will probably never go again unless the decision is out of my hands. I wasn't the only one at the table they wouldn't accommodate either. Add to that, sometimes they take reservations, sometimes they don't. For a business who supposedly caters to it's customers, not taking reservations is a little bit of a slap in the face. If I call somewhere to make reservations and they say "We don't take reservations on Fridays." or "We only take reservations for groups of 8 or more." or anything like that, I go somewhere else and make it a point to never go back. My business should be just as important as a group of 8. Hunters is another place. I was there once with two others and not one meal was fit to eat. We have far too many restaurants in Charlottetown. We've gotten to the point where owners are lowering the quality of the food and increasing the quantity to make a better profit. I'd rather go somewhere and get half the food ('cause most of us eat too much anyway) and have it be amazing then go somewhere, get a plate that could feed 3 people (Hunters) and leave most of on the plate because it's awful. Quality, not quantity people.

  • Resident
    September 14, 2012 - 08:50

    PH is a great establishment, and having harsh expectations, I'd say this is one of the best and really consistent place on PEI. There is a space for improvement on the service side. We had servers passed by us at the door at least 20 times, before one stopped and asked if we been helped. Also, train your servers not to cruze the floor with empty hands. If I have to pay my bill with empty plates on the table, something is not right... Great food, I would recommend to anyone, and good luck to you!