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Ainslie’s Pilot sets course for national recognition at Gourmet Traveller awards

Ian Bushnell 21 August 2019 17

Pilot head chef Malcolm Hanslow with owners Ross Mcquinn and Dash Rumble. Plenty to celebrate. Photos: Supplied.

Ainslie eatery Pilot is flying high with two nominations for the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year awards to be announced on Wednesday night (21 August).

Dash Rumble and Ross Mcquinn’s first solo effort, Pilot is in the running for New Restaurant of the Year, along with chef Malcolm Hanslow in the Best New Talent category.

Since opening last spring in the old Pulp Kitchen site at Ainslie shops, Pilot has won over the locals and impressed the blow-ins with a changing menu based on fresh local and seasonal ingredients and fun takes on old favourites in a relaxed setting.

The common denominator for the trio is another Canberra favourite, Braddon’s eightysix, where they all worked before heading to some of Australia’s most celebrated restaurants.

The new venture also meant continuity for the Ainslie site where Ross helped eightsix’s Gus Armstrong launch the new Pulp Kitchen in 2017, only to end up buying the business.

Relaxed and unpretentious.

Ross says the Gourmet Traveller nominations have blown away the trio, as has Pilot’s listing among The Australian‘s top 50 restaurants.

But they did want to make a splash. “We definitely wanted to be noticed not just in Canberra. It’s good for Australia to bring some attention to Canberra, not that others haven’t, but we wanted to be a part of that,” he says.

They saw the opportunity in Canberra for a  high-quality sharing menu and refined service in a relaxed setting and atmosphere, with a strong emphasis on seasonal availability.

More about good produce and the simple treatment of it, the menu changes according to what is available.

“We work with a lot of small growers and rather than asking them for specific things, Mal calls them and asks what’s good this week and develops the menu based on what he can get,” Ross says.

He says Mal also takes familiar concepts and ideas, nostalgic things, and does them in a new fun way.

Gourmet Traveller loved the potato salad.

A signature dish is the organic free-range chicken cold smoked and stuffed with a mushroom duxelle and served with steamed white bread.

“The idea is we love chicken sandwiches and you can make yourself a little chicken sandwich,” Ross says.

Gourmet Traveller fell for the non-traditional potato salad and the locals are lapping up the reinvented Viennetta dessert.

The magazine says it’s dining that’s fun, relaxed, clear-cut and precise all at once.

“The vision is bolstered by the presence of owners Dash Rumble and Ross McQuinn on the floor, pouring fresh, trend-driven wines and bringing considerable experience to bear on their own project,” it says.

“Malcolm Hanslow, meanwhile, oversees a menu that consistently understates and over-delivers. Small-town feel, big-town ambition, and right on the pulse. In short: Canberra’s new darling.”

Strawberry and rose hip dessert.

The drinks list is all-Australian with a tendency towards local and environmentally kind, including biodynamic and organic labels.

With seating for 35, Pilot is on the smaller side but roll on summer and Ross says the outdoor setting will come into play.

The trio walks the talk when it comes to championing Canberra. Dishes are served on ceramics made by local maker Chris Harford and Linburn Handmade, wine decanters have been co-designed with glassblower Scott Chaseling at Canberra Glassworks and the walls are laden with artwork supplied by nearby artist-run gallery, Tributary Projects.

They will all be flying the flag for Canberra on Wednesday night, with phones at the ready to check how their baby is going without them.

“We love it here,” Ross says. “It’s such a great place to live, and criminally overlooked.”


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17 Responses to Ainslie’s Pilot sets course for national recognition at Gourmet Traveller awards
maxblues maxblues 11:29 pm 21 Aug 19

Good name for a restaurant…..near the airport.

Rebecca Kelly Rebecca Kelly 7:53 pm 21 Aug 19

Sophie Green Moore Jodie Farrah cmon girls get on it!

Louise Thackway Louise Thackway 10:47 am 21 Aug 19

KahLin Wormell you’ll just have to come down on another night of the week!

    KahLin Wormell KahLin Wormell 4:41 pm 21 Aug 19

    Louise Thackway looks like it. Will have to come down to Canberra on a Thursday and stay till Sat.

Bill O'Neill Bill O'Neill 7:28 am 21 Aug 19

Terrific food and team!

    Callum Larkman Callum Larkman 9:10 am 21 Aug 19

    Bill O'Neill I read pilot and thought it must be a cool aviation themed place 😅

Alison Senti Alison Senti 9:19 pm 20 Aug 19

Jackie option 3

Helen Weldon Helen Weldon 9:09 pm 20 Aug 19

Sandra Pettitt Liane Pettitt ... yes?

    Sandra Pettitt Sandra Pettitt 9:13 pm 20 Aug 19

    Helen Weldon liane Pettitt... definitely!

Paul Eldridge Paul Eldridge 6:36 pm 20 Aug 19

Dean Delaney pretty cool

Christa Culley Christa Culley 6:19 pm 20 Aug 19

Congrats. Well deserved

Pilot. Restaurant + Bar

Kate Myles-Best Kate Myles-Best 3:54 pm 20 Aug 19

Kerryn Peisley have you been here?

    Kerryn Peisley Kerryn Peisley 6:16 pm 20 Aug 19

    Kate Myles-Best not yet but next time you & Jamie are in town we will go there.

Nathan Kleinig Nathan Kleinig 3:27 pm 20 Aug 19

Awesome these guys rock

Sheryle Moon Sheryle Moon 3:08 pm 20 Aug 19

Congratulations Pilot. Restaurant + Bar

Jaesen Jones Jaesen Jones 3:03 pm 20 Aug 19

Michelle Nicol this place is on our list.

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