Restaurant review - Pilio, Heathfield
PUBLISHED: 14:42 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:42 11 February 2020
Laura Paton visits Pilio in Heathfield and finds a buzzy bistro that lives up to local hype
What better time to visit an authentic Greek restaurant than in the depths of winter? Serving sun-drenched dishes straight from the Aegean coast, Pilio opened to much local acclaim and has since made an indelible mark on a town with a proliferation of takeaway joints.
Shortly after moving to England in 2014, restaurateurs Dora and Thanasis Sakellari set up their small bistro on Heathfield's high street. To keep up with demand, a larger premises was soon needed, prompting a move to the characterful former station house just a short distance away.
Named after the mountainous region the couple hails from, Pilio celebrates both their Greek heritage and new-found home. While Dora manages the front of house team, chef Thanasis can be found in the kitchen, preparing dishes using locally sourced produce and ingredients brought over from their farm in Volos.
The menu is packed with
Greek favourites alongside
dishes unique to the Pelion region. Wines originate from Greece, Crete and Macedonia, and beers include Greek staples Mythos and Fix.
A well-stocked bar sits at the centre of the restaurant with a larger dining area to the right and a smaller to the left. The white walls, wooden floors and trailing plants create a rustic taverna vibe that's functional
Our order taken, we're brought complimentary bread with a balsamic glaze and black olive tapenade, along with our carafe of house red (£7.50, 500ml). A blend of kotsifali and merlot grapes, it's rich and full-bodied.
"The courgette fritters are legendary," a friend enthused just days before, so ordering them is a no-brainer. Quenelle-shaped and oozing with cheese, the kolokithia (£6.50) are filled with grated courgette, feta and herbs, have a crisp, golden coating and are served with a creamy tzatziki. The stuff of legend might be a reach, but, from this point on, I know we're in good hands.
Aubergine can be a tricky beast. Cook it too long and it's unappealing mush; too little and you're chewing on leather-covered cotton wool.
My companion's melitzana
(£7) gets it just right. Sliced, rolled, grilled and filled with garlicky feta, the aubergine is as plush as a pillow and topped with fresh tomato sauce, herbs and more cheese.
A 'Pilio classic', tigania (£10.50) is made using a recipe from the Sakellari's own village. Light and refreshing, it's the kind of food you crave after a day at the beach. Tender and slightly pink at the centre, the diced pork has been baked with feta, oregano and extra virgin olive oil to create a silky sauce, and served with rice and a mixed salad.
The sunniest of comfort foods, keftedakia kokinista (£11.50) promises meatballs in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce - and it delivers, with bells on. The sumptuous sauce covers meaty spheres of beef that are beautifully succulent. Crusty bread is served separately, ready for dipping and soaking up every last drop.
The chocolate cake (£6) would be eye candy to a five-year-old. It's been sprinkled, splodged and drizzled within an inch of its life. But no amount of white chocolate chips, whipped cream and chocolate sauce can detract from how very dry the cake is. The rich chocolate ice cream, however, is delicious and definitely for grown-ups.
Service has been friendly and professional, if a little slow - we realise it's been a good three hours since we arrived. Not being in any particular rush, it hasn't bothered us, but it might if we had other plans.
Celebrating fresh, vibrant flavours and top-quality ingredients, this is a little bistro with a big heart - and, on the whole, it lives up to the hype. u
Pilio, The Old Station, Station Approach, Heathfield TN21 0AA
See more of Laura Paton's reviews at scribblinginthekitchen.wordpress.com