I arrived about 5 minutes early and was invited to perch on a bar stool as our table wasn't ready. Steve joined me shortly and then within seconds we went to our table. We were quite close to other couples so the better tables are the booth ones I think. Less chance of hearing the conversation next door.
We followed that up with:
Anchovy Shortbread, Parmesan Custard
Reminiscent of the anchoa at Movida but no sorbet, instead a custard, the pastry was buttery and crumbly and the anchovy salty with that heavy whack of umami. Great beer food.
The steak tartare had a good texture - chunky and a good spice too it. Loved the zing of tabasco and the crunchy, crispy, toastiness of the crisps. It was very rich and pretty good. The table next to us kept waxing lyrical about it and how it compared to Bistro Vue's and it got very boring listening to them!
The almond gazpacho was interesting in that it was creamy without being fatty, hint of salty sweetness from the crab, fresh green flavour from the parsley and some texture and sweetness from some black grapes.
Steve went with the Roast Rabbit, Saltbush, Wakame & Mildura Jerusalem Artichokes. Again another classic dish executed well but not hugely memorable. The most interesting thing would have been the saltbush which added an interesting floral flavour. Steve says it was most enjoyable at the time and it went down well enough but not something to shout from the rooftops and urge others to try.
Desserts left their mark more. Steve went with the specialty dessert of Caramelised Tomato Stuffed with Twelve Flavours, Star Anise Ice Cream. Very cutely presented and reminiscent of those tomato ketchup bottles that are in the shape of a red tomato, it was heavily spiced with Christmassy flavours of fruit and peel.
I went with the Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberry, Italian Meringue. Perfect combination and pleasing to everyone surely. And yes it was deliciously delightful if not a little conservative.
We felt a little let down by service. Whilst the maitre d' Ainslie Lubbock is award winning and rightly deserving of her title, her team is less impressive. Ainslie was extremely courteous, attentive and incredibly charming as was her 2ic but there were too many other tables for them to be able to cover everyone and where they then should have been supported by others, there were gaps.
We were left to wait just a touch too long for our order to be taken, our drinks took just a little longer than patience allows, our wine glasses were emptier just a smidgen too long...you get my drift...And really it was because Ainslie and her 2ic were spread too thin and the team just didn't have the attentiveness and attention to detail needed to keep the standards as high as when she and her 2ic assist.
I liked Pei Modern on the whole. I'm not rushing back but I know if I was encouraged to return, say if someone else suggested it, I wouldn't be averse as I know I'll enjoy the food. I've just had slightly better experiences elsewhere so it makes sense to put the higher up on the restaurants to revisit.