Ever dipped your spoon into a bowl of bright-green sorrel sorbet, tried jewel-like sea urchin laid on top of beef tartar, or clams with fermented corn? Not all at once of course, but Mark Best’s Pei Modern is to be dived into fork-first, hesitations second. You’ll find some of Australia’s most immaculate produce here, prepared with subtlety and finesse.
The expansive, marble-clad lobby space of the Four Seasons Hotel on George Street has been reimagined, pared back and opened up by architect Helen Rice. Behind the pass, a wood-fired oven blazes, filling the air with the soft scent of mallee wood charcoal and ironbark root.
All Pei Modern’s bread is baked in this oven, lending it a slightly smoky character. Slow-cooked Milly Hill lamb shoulders with chamomile are given a run through this oven too, as are whole fleshy salmon tails with samphire and Holmbrae chicken with globe artichoke.
Classics perfected at the first Pei Modern in Melbourne remain, such as casarecce pasta with chicken dumplings and reggiano remain, and for those with a taste for salt, try the crumbly Parmesan shortbreads topped with a dollop of parmesan custard and a plump anchovy fillet.
Cocktails sound fruity (rye and pineapple, for example) but are mixed short and sharp. Actually, it’s the dessert menu that truly shines. A simple-sounding chocolate ganache tart with eucalyptus, whey caramel and clotted cream is presented as whisper-thin shards of dark, velvety tempered chocolate that melt on the tongue, with just a hint of cooling eucalyptus. Sorrel sorbet is topped with splinters of crunchy, toffee-coloured honeycomb.