Perhaps it’s because of my British roots, but when I think of a seaside pier, it conjures up coastal Edwardian festivity and Southend geriatricity. So, the understated precinct that is Cairns’ very own pier complex still creates a little bit of dissonance in me every time I visit. But Piato is no end of the pier show; this is a first-rate Mediterranean restaurant. It was founded by local multi-award-winning restaurateur Elie Sopas and then purchased by young gun restaurateur Vivek Ponugoti in 2021. The transition was far from seamless, in fact, Vivek took what was generally considered a good restaurant and made it into a better one. He has an eye for detail and in his capacity both as host and owner, has surrounded himself with a great team, making Piato well worth a visit.
Opting for lunch on this occasion, there is a specials menu which sits along the full menu, offering dishes at $20 including a glass of wine or domestic beer. An outdoor table took in the marina vista and the sea breeze. The service was detailed and old school, and our waiter was attentive, knowledgeable and a delightful alternative to the more casual modernity that permeates service across a lot of our regional hospitality. The lunchtime dishes are excellent and probably offer some of the best bang for buck available when held in the context of the location, substance and the very nice wine which is being passed off as ‘house’. I had the swordfish, and it was grilled to perfection. Swordfish is pretty forgiving to cook, but this was excellent, sitting atop pearl couscous, seasonal vegetables and sprinkled with almond flakes. It was the personification of a good dish and the best twenty bucks I have spent in recent times.
The beef souvlaki was almost equally delightful, excellently seasoned, and beautifully presented with a perfect mash, broccolini and a surprisingly depthy red wine jus. Also on the menu was a very competent prawn pasta and somewhat more prosaic fish and chips, both outstanding value portioned perfectly for the lunchtime diner. The lunch menu is not extensive, nor does it need to be, but without question, it serves as a tempting gateway into the delights of the main menu. I imagine there is no doubting this editor's seal of approval, but as I say so often, don't take my word for it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, which reminds me, I had the Tiramisu, it was magnificent.
For further information or to book visit https://piatocairns.com/