“IT IS like playing a grand final every day.”
This is how chef Giovanni Pilu describes the experience of reopening Pilu at Freshwater after a long lockdown-induced hiatus.
“We know that’s it,” he said. “We now know and all the staff know that we’re going to be busy all through Christmas. We’re just going to keep driving.”
His wife and co-owner, Marilyn Annecchini, said the whole experience of opening the famous fine dining restaurant (and sister restaurant of Harbor Diggers and AcquaFresca by Pilu) was very emotional. And not just in a good way, although there were a lot of highlights. There were also a lot of tears.
Each service, lunch and dinner, is like their busiest service of the week, around Christmas time – with no downtime and no end in sight as they’ve been full for months.
They are exhausted, but also excited to be back.
“It has been difficult,” she said. “We’re so under the pump. I have worked 10 shifts non-stop and usually don’t work on the floor. I put my sneakers back on with my dresses on, had to give up my heels. My staff thinks it is. is hilarious! “
Mr. Pilu agrees: “I’m not used to that kind of pace anymore – when I was 20-30 it was okay now” wow man! “” he said with a laugh. “This intensity that we normally get at Christmas, now it’s like that every day. The structuring of the menu, the training, the ordering. It’s like opening a new restaurant.”
They are also understaffed, having lost internationals when they were sent home in the last lockdown and then lost staff to other industries during their hiatus. “People realized there was life outside of hospitality!” Ms. Annecchini said.
Their customers are happy to come back for dinner and have been very supportive.
While Mr. Pilu made time to train for a triathlon next year, the couple have also worked hard to launch a very popular take-out menu, even delivering meals themselves.
They are now completely immersed in fine dining and have made delicious menu changes and implemented a new shared dining philosophy – their first major change in 17 years.
And they both agree: no more deliveries. “I’ll be happy to never see another take-out box in my life,” Ms. Annecchini said.
A gentle sea to come
There is plenty to smile about for The Boathouse Group founders Andrew and Pip Goldsmith since the lockdown ended.
The couple handle the day-to-day management of seven venues on the northern beaches, and they are set to put their winning touch on the Manly Pavilion before it reopens early next year.
The extended COVID lockdown has been a challenge for the Group, with The Boathouse Bakery in Palm Beach the only location to remain open throughout the 106-day shutdown. Barrenjoey House, also in Palm Beach, has offered take-out and home delivery for a while, but Mr Goldsmith admits it was difficult and therefore made the decision to close it until the others reopened. Boathouse sites on October 20.
While many of the group’s staff have returned to duty after the lockdown, the lack of backpackers and overseas travelers means there is still a wide range of positions available at the hospitality giant’s sites. .
“It was hard for everyone to be home and locked up and not be able to get out, but there were a lot of glimmers of hope,” Goldsmith said. “The team is really happy to be back. A lot of locals are happy to come back.”
Barrenjoey House is already full for many nights and weekends, and major renovations will begin soon at Boathouse Palm Beach.
This week, the Group will vote on its latest purchase, Manly Pavilion. The site will keep its name, undergo a facelift and is slated to reopen in February 2022. It will expand its corporate and wedding offerings downstairs, while upstairs it will welcome diners and those who like a drink. while enjoying the view.
“It’s going to get a little facelift, we want it to feel a little more on the beach and a little more our style, it will be similar to Barrenjoey House,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “Upstairs, we’re going to be a really nice space, and we love the idea of having a night out in Manly, that’ll be really cool.”
Another idea launched is to connect the Manly Pavilion with the Group’s existing site in Rose Bay via a VIP taxi service.
“It is a beautiful place and a beautiful place,” said Mr. Goldsmith. “People love to get on the boat and travel.”
Sydney Collective in celebration
“It was like a Friday night every night there,” Sydney Collective founder Fraser Short said of groovy bar Manly Daniel San. The group also owns Park House in Mona Vale and since both are quite large spaces Mr Short said they try not to fill reservations so locals can still walk around them.
“It was eventful for everyone,” he said, adding that like most sites, they lost staff who moved on to other industries during the lockdown, and there were also shortages of staff from abroad.
“Especially in Manly, not having foreign visitors has been very tricky – for the clientele or as a staff,” he said.
He said the owners had used the time to review menus, vendors and products and polish their offerings – but were now very happy to be back. “The people – the staff, the owners, the guests – are just very happy to be outside,” he said.
They plan to celebrate with a Great Southern Nights concert series early next year.
Happy times in Merivale
It’s hard for Chris Fowler to keep the smile on his face when he talks about the reopening of The Newport, The Collaroy and Queen Chow Manly after the lockdown.
“There was a tremendous amount of celebration and relief and people can’t wait to come out,” said the group’s operations manager for Merivale.
“There was a lot of excitement and it was great to see our teams reconnect.”
Customers return to the scene en masse. Bert’s Bar and Brasserie, located upstairs at the Newport, is full for many nights, while regulars at double vaxx are back in the bars and beer gardens to enjoy their new freedoms.
Mr. Fowler laughs he’s never had so many “thanks” and slaps on the back from customers as excited as he is to be back at their favorite watering hole.
The only Merivale sites on the northern beaches to remain open during the lockdown were the Newport Bottle Shop and Queen Chow Manly, which have successfully pivoted to take-out.
It took a long time for The Collaroy and Newport sites to shut down and Mr Fowler said while many staff returned to work in Merivale after the extended lockdown, there remains a shortage in some areas.
“We certainly had challenges, but overall the team came back as they were,” he said. “We are definitely doing a recruiting campaign.”
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