© Photo special to The Guardian by Bob Gray
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bgray5.