Looking for a good argument to eat in a hotel lobby? Let chef Mark Best and Pei Modern convince you
This isn’t his first Pei rodeo. Best opened a Melbourne version a few years back to rave reviews. Back on Sydney soil (aaaah) and chef Matt Germanchis is running the show day to day, serving croquettes that are almost rosti-like with their big shreds of potato interlaced with generous amounts of salt cod. Crisp toasts are piled with hand chopped of raw beef interspersed with (so many!) capers and dressed with horseradish cream. And just to up the luxe factor, slivers of urchin loll over the top, making for a creamy, hot, fatty and cooling two bite snack.
On top of elegance and originality on the plate, there’s also a real focus on basic comfort here. Roast chickens are chained and hang over the fire like tasty S&M rotisserie. And of course, there’s the signature hearty delight of gibblety casarecce – firm pasta shapes, like half-cut stubby straws, chicken meatballs and meat bits, all doused in plenty of melted butter and a little cheese. Winter’s gone, summer’s arrived and we’re still ordering it.
Some things don’t quite rock us quite the same way. The lamb saganaki burger is a salty number, and despite those deliciously crisp puffy onion rings and the krautish relish, we still wouldn’t go back for it. The blueberries and confit lemon splodges with what is otherwise a really good pork cutlet don’t quite get us dancing on the tables, either. But boy, that sucker is juicy. (PS: if you're used to a well-done pork cutlet, think again – these guys serve theirs fearlessly pink). Add a salad of beets and figs with a hale of mustard seeds for some pared back brightness.
It’s a big menu, and one that could see you coming in for a glass of wine with a round of parmesan shortbread and anchovies – they’re like the best ever savoury version of a melting moment – as easily as the musky Rangers Valley hanger steak with all the trimmings. Whatever happens, you’d be fools to skip over the sweet stuff. There’s fresh, juicy tamarillo with a big scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream resting on an almost buttery clotted cream. Duck egg sauternes custard, an ode to that special Marque pre-dessert, is as bittersweet and silky as its sister. The chocolate tart with eucalyptus caramel, though delicious, is a deconstructed "tart" and fairly annoying to eat. As with all things, we defer to Meatloaf: "two out of three aint bad."
There’s plenty to like here thanks to the mad skills on the floor and in the kitchen. Just imagine if we could get a Pei Modern in Marrickville, Redfern or a side street in Glebe. We'll make you a mood board, Mark.