The first thing that came to mind when I heard about Pei Modern was how unusual. Unusual name, unusual location. For me this was not a bad thing, in fact it sparked quite a lot of interest. I wondered how one would make a restaurant in a hotel driveway work? Well they have and as the name suggests it is unusual and modern.
Pei Modern found its name from the architect I.M. Pei who designed the glass pyramid in the courtyard of Le Louvre Museum in Paris. Pei also designed the canopy which hovers over the driveway at the Sofitel.
The force behind this endeavour is Mark Best who is a celebrated Sydney chef. Best has created a modern dining space which is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner with a substantial all day bar menu on offer as well. Pei Modern also serves breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.
The concept behind the bistro is to leave the formality of fine dining behind and to create an intimate space for a drink or something to eat. What is very interesting and unique is the attention to detail in specific areas such as a high quality knife that stays with you throughout your meal rather than being replaced with each course. There are no table cloths yet the napkin provided is one of the finest linen napkins I have ever seen in Melbourne dining room. Each decision has obviously been well thought out and provides a sense of something new which is enjoyable to say the least.
One of the most important ingredients for a great restaurant is the front of house experience. Many restauranteurs underestimate the impact of the guest experience which is created by the front of house team. Pei Modern has struck gold with Ainslie Lubbock who heads the team. Ainslie is a seasoned professional and you don’t need to see her resume to figure this out. She is charming, knowledgeable, accommodating and has a fun and playful demeanor which suits the restaurant perfectly. It is clear that Ainslie has hand picked her team and everyone from the wait staff to the sommelier were charming and informative without being intrusive.
One very smart choice was Pei Modern’s anti-trend decision to buck the stampede of restaurants who refuse to take reservations. Your bookings are welcome. Bravo I say! As a result your valuable time will not be wasted in a queue and you will not be rushed off your table in consideration of waiting diners. I implore my readers to recognise that restauranteurs now have a choice on how they run their establishments. Should you be offered a booking ensure you show up on time, call if you are running late or cancel with as much notice as possible if you can not make it.
So what about the menu? Pei Modern focuses on the best and freshest local ingredients and as a result the menu changes frequently. It is filled with unusual cuts of meat and interesting flavour combinations. The restaurant is suited for those with a taste for culinary adventure. We had the seven course degustation menu for $90 with matching wines which start at $50. It is clear that head chef Matt Germanchis presides over a menu who’s statement is to be fresh, inventive and bold. Delicacies such as the finest salumi served on wax paper with pickled onions and mustard seed, almond gazpacho and blue swimmer crab, lamb sweetbreads with roasted capsicum and Dutch creams with mojama, coffee and bone marrow were all well thought out and balanced dishes. The succession of courses pleased all three seasoned concierges at our table.
Each course was matched with beautiful wines from Australia and Europe. The sommeliers choices were perfect. Each arriving at the table with a wonderful story on the different use of grape varieties, challenging soil conditions or unconventional process with which the wine was produced. I was impressed with the constancy of theme even in the wines.
The mark of a good restaurant is one that would entice you to return again and again. I will be back, perhaps next time for a glass of wine and to sample of some of the other intriguing items on the bar menu.
Pei Modern is located in the driveway of Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, 25 Collins Street, Melbourne – Tel: 03 9654 8545
Pei Modern recently won The Age Good Food Guides 2013 Best New Restaurant Award.
Ainslie Lubbock recently won The Age Good Food Guides 2013 Service Excellence Award.
Enjoyed my post? Want to keep up with great things to do around Melbourne, Australia and the world? Please feel free to subscribe to my blog by placing your email in the subscription box on my home page or just email me at ConciergeAUS@gmail.com Once subscribed you’ll automatically receive an email notification every time I create a new post. Your subscription will always remain spam free. Thank you for reading!