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Maha Bar and Grill
L'avis de Gault&Millau
Shane Delia, head chef and owner of Maha, fuses the cooking styles and flavours of his Maltese heritage with flavours and dishes of the Middle East and the Mediterranean; most recognisable influences being from Lebanon and Turkey alike. Shane has received much attention since opening in 2008 and in this short time has appeared on his own television program and had published the Maha cook book. It may appear that Shane had a rapid rise to Celebrity Chef status however, he earned his chef spurs during his nine year term working at the award winning Eleonore’s at Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley wine region of Victoria. During the time of running Maha Shane spent two years working alongside George Colombaris and the owners of the Made Group at their Meditteranean restaurant, St Katherines in Kew.
In an area of the CBD not synonymous with dining you will find Maha; discreetly positioned and with subtle signage suggesting that if you are dining here you are intentionally coming rather than passing by. The restaurant itself evokes a lot of warmth and comfort, is elegantly designed with a high end fit out that suggests taste and quality were paramount in the development of the ambience and dining experience. The design and feel of the restaurant is both suitable for business engagements and social occasions and a perfect choice for a destination for a romantic dinner for two. There are few restaurants with acoustics
The restaurant does not have an A La Carte menu and instead offers a number of set menus ranging in quantity of courses from two to six per person. Of the two course menu a variety of meze style entrees were provided followed by a main protein with side dishes. The entre mezes included smoked hummus, lamb, cashew, cumin seeds, almonds, local olives, maltese fel fel, 'aegean coast' wild greens and beach bananas, oyster cream, pork crackling and lamb kibbeh, harissa yoghurt . The stand out was the smoked hummus; the flavour was delectable with the smokiness being both subtle and flavoursome without overpowering any other meze dish. The variety in tastes, colour, textures and presentation was pleasing to the eye and balanced in terms of the various flavours. If only the Lebanese bread had been served warm and of better quality – the taste and texture of the bread resembled the options available at supermarkets and the expectation for Maha was to have been a home-made bread.Moving on to the main dishes of a 12 hour roasted lamb shoulder, sumac, garlic, green olive tabouleh with a separate dish of cracked wheat pilaf, barberry, date, almond and the classic salad of fattoush, caramelised garlic, tomato, cucumber. Each of the courses and dishes are designed to be shared and portions of each were satisfying but not plentiful. The 12 hour lamb was succulent, extremely moist and tasty with the green olive tabouleh adding a complimentary tartness to the total dish. The sides of the pilaf and fattoush were rather bland in flavours and lacked any great technique or point of difference to the meal experience. It is clear the style of Maha is to provide a refined Middle Eastern dining experience with the ambience and service style matching well to the way in which the food is described and presented.
A really nice touch in between the two courses was a dash of lemon scented hand cleaner served by the waiter and from a Turkish receptacle – for anyone that has travelled through Turkey by the public bus system this will take them right back to that moment where the same refreshing and beautifully scented liquid is offered to passengers during their bus journey.Let our innovative and exciting menus take you on a journey through The Middle East without leaving the CBD of Melbourne. With bold flavours and spices, our menu is a fusion of Shane’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences.