A pre-Christmas get together with Ishtar, a colleague and fellow intrepid traveller, required a bit of a special venue. Usually we grab sushi from the food court downstairs from the office while nattering about our travels. The season dictated a treat and so we headed to Pei Modern.

As an early adopter, Greedy Girl had already dined there a few times (but was yet to blog the experience). Indeed, securing a table the week it opened meant a picture of she and sometime contributor to The Foodie World, Madame Lapine, was featured to accompany Broadsheet Melbourne’s first story about the venue. If you can bear to drag yourself away from this blog you can see us here. Established a couple of years now, Pei Modern was the first in a more casual style from renowned Sydney chef Mark Best and the concept has also since opened in Sydney.

The restaurant took over a space vacated by a post office, at the street entrance to Melbourne’s Sofitel hotel. Greedy Girl recalls she enjoyed her dishes that first night but left feeling hungry. The servings were rather small. A few visits to the bar area subsequently didn’t fill her with particular delight. While the snacks were always good and there were interesting wines available by the glass, the service was just too haphazard. Quickly, it dropped off her radar. That’s Melbourne for you … so many options.

But its proximity to the office meant it was a decent prospect for the get together with Ishtar, and the express lunch deal seemed reasonable. We booked and presented ourselves one buzzy lunchtime for two courses and a cup of coffee, included for A$39. Of course, given the season, we decided to add a glass of wine each and a side with the main course. All good, but the deal was no longer quite so affordable. Ne’er mind.

The dining floor here is separated by a central bar into two zones – a smaller bar area with a few tables and a host of tables abutting the open kitchen. There’s a nice enough aspect out to the forecourt of the hotel and some exterior seating. This time of year in Melbourne is notorious for high pollen counts. We opted to stay indoors where the air-conditioning battled with the kitchen heat but was, overall, quite comfortable.

The options presented for the express lunch are limited. Two starters, two mains and three desserts (if you count the cheese platter). Ishtar began with the salumi, while Greedy Girl took the other option, a confit celeriac with mustard and duck ham. The salumi was a pretty sight. Various cured meats were presented on a sheet of crumpled wax paper at the table. A perfect summer starter, accompanied by a chilled glass of Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Pei Modern Melbourne

The salumi collection

Greedy Girl’s celeriac was an interesting dish. The sauce surrounding the tender pieces of celeriac was unexpectedly thick but very moreish and particularly moppable with the crusty bread provided at the outset. The thinly sliced duck ham was an inspired touch. Delish. This was accompanied by a glass of Kilikanoon Grenache from South Australia’s Clare Valley.
Pei Modern Melbourne

Confit celeriac with duck ham

Our main courses followed. Ishtar took the swordfish pictured at the top of this post. A vibrant-looking plate, it was Mooloolaba swordfish, grilled, and served with green mango and cucumber. Ishtar pronounced herself very happy with the combination. Greedy Girl took the Ballarat pork lion chop, grilled and served with daikon and vadouvan – a blend of spices, including curry. Greedy Girl has never had success cooking pork at home, especially on the bone. The meat always dries out. This, it should be said, was a fraction dry but the flavours were very good. We helped ourselves to a serving of crispy chips on the side and were very pleased with our interlude.
Pei Modern Melbourne

Ballarat pork chop

For the most part, the service was OK. We were welcomed warmly and our requests actioned reasonably promptly. The only downside was the table next to us, during quite a busy lunch service, was being used for photography and we were constantly bumped by people and tripods. It seems such is Greedy Girl’s life at Pei Modern that she’s fated to be surrounded by cameras. It was also impossible to find a staff member when it came time to get the bill. Odd.

Greedy Girl met her friend Madame Lapine there the next morning for a breakfast meeting. Then, the service was starting to border on the rude. Water was slopped all over the table, and the menus. Greedy Girl needed to get a napkin from another table to clean up as the wait staff clearly weren’t at all fussed about it, and requests were met with a dour expression and significant delays. It’s a shame; the food here is pretty good and a bit more inventive than standard bistro fare. It would certainly get a much higher rating if the service was consistently better.

Pei Modern

The Foodie World three star rating
Collins Place, 55 Collins Street Melbourne
Pei Modern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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