Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Decadent Thursday at Maha

Maha Bar and Grill
21 Bond Street, Melbourne (map)
9629 5900


Best-friend-K and I had decided to have another Decadent Weeknight last Thursday, her last night in town before her four week trip overseas. She'd kiboshed my initial suggestion of Attica ("too far away!" whined the inner northern suburbs snob), but was just as excited as I was with my other suggestion: Maha Bar and Grill, the Middle Eastern sister to Der Presse-Club and first flagship restaurant of Shane Delia.

Maha interior

I'd met b-f-K at the other end of the city for a pre-dinner drink with a group of her friends at Meyers Place, which is where she dropped the bombshell: she'd resigned from her job that afternoon. And seeing as she'd already obtained four weeks of leave, that meant that she'd just had her last day! I'm thrilled for her - the new job she's got sounds awesome. Just as well, I thought to myself, that we were going somewhere a bit fancy to celebrate...

We trammed down Collins to Maha. We loved the sleek, sexy interior, ambient lighting and thick Persian carpet. We sat and told our smooth waiter we'd like to try the four course Soufra (banquet) menu ($65 per head). He immediately brought us a pair of shot glasses filled with a delicious iced tea - I think it was hibiscus?

Maha tea

Smooth Waiter returned and murmured "How would you like to start the evening? A glass of champagne, perhaps?". Buoyed by the two drinks we'd had at Meyers Place as well as the desire to celebrate b-f-K's big news, we looked at each other and both chimed "Yes please". SW glided back moments later with an open bottle of Veuve and poured us each a glass.

I took a sip and (as I always do) instantly regretted every glass of cheap nasty bubbly that has ever passed my lips, and made a vow (always quickly broken) to drink only top shelf sparkling, even if it means ordering them far less often.

I put the glass down and, in recounting some trivial anecdote, promptly gesticulated dramatically with my hands and sent my barely touched glass flying across the room and onto the carpet. SW materialised and swiftly replaced my glass and filled it up with more Veuve. And we were only charged for two glasses. Classy. (them, not me) :)

Maha Verve

First course was berid mezze (small cold dishes), served on a you-know-what (seriously, whole rainforests are being felled so that Melbourne's restaurants have wooden sharing platters). Clockwise from bottom left: mixed olives, a creamy dip, little couscous salad, felafel (or maybe they were kofte) labna balls rolled in sumac, hummus, really yummy foam thing (it had cubed cucumber and something memorably sweet at the bottom - was it honey?) as well as the most amazingly light chicken liver mousse. A side plate of pita bread arrived and was replenished throughout our meal.

Maha antipasti

Next course was sokhoun mezze (small hot dishes). The calamari was just incredible - the honey and almond batter was like nothing I've ever even thought of having before with calamari, but it really worked. The quail was also excellent, served on a sald which included crispy pancetta-like strips.

Maha calamariMaha quail

Third course was shahen kbeer (large dishes). Clockwise again from bottom left: a fattouche, butterfish with pine nuts and pomegranate, roasted red pepper dip and potatoes with coriander and lemon.

Maha mainsMaha mains

The butterfish was another real highlight. I'm crazy about pomegranates. The other main was a sweet, sticky roast lamb... but to be honest, we were getting very full by this stage, so were forced to leave most of it.

Maha butterfishMaha lamb

Finally, helwayet (desserts). Somehow, we perked up again and found room for dessert. I'm not normally a fan of turkish delight, but the turkish delight-filled donuts were hot and delicious, expecially when combined with the two ice creams (one of which tasted sort of like those Pez lollies... but in a really good way.

Maha desserts

Also included was a diamond of baklava and two glasses of orange blossom homemade lemonade with pine nuts and mint, and a watermelon sorbet with finely chopped fresh strawberries, pine nuts (can't get enough of them!) and either mint or basil, can't remember which (probably mint). Which was the prefect, refreshing way to finish off the meal.

Maha baklavaMaha sorbet

Another lovely little touch: the bill came served inside a hollowed out old book. It also came with a silver vessel containing lemon oil, to rub on your hands to make them smell gooooood...

Maha pinotMaha lotion

We loved it. I'm most keen to go back soon to try some of the à la carte menu items. Want one more reason to love Maha? On Saturday nights they serve a midnight fest menu, called Sa'hra, from 11pm to 3am. In like Flynn, I tells ya!


jamesbluntknife said...

god i loved maha! i love your pics, it brings back good memories.
we got the same thing as you,as the 5 course takes longer, and it's only a soup extra. i've been told it's really good, so maybe next time...

the first drink is hisbiscus tea.

my memory is a bit hazy of the night, but i think that the foam is pomegranite foam on those little glasses for the first course. the chicken liver mousse was to die for!
were the little balls labna balls rolled in sumac? that's what we had, but it might be different by now.

we had so much trouble eating it all - we couldn't finish the hot dishes, and only ate half of the desserts! overall it is an amazing experience, and worth trying out again. did they get any hats in the good food guide?

just out of interest has anybody tried to get the chicken liver mousse recipe from there?

Ran said...

yum! I really want to goh ere but no one will go with me

(violins in background)

claire said...

Thanks for the hints about the dishes James. Yes they did get a hat this year!

Aw Ran, I feel your pain! :-)

Jodes said...

oh ok so yum.. I really need to try this one out!!!
Big fan of the press club and it sounds like this is just as good!

Anonymous said...

I was sooooo full after the 5 course soufra. I normally have a second stomach for the sweet stuff, but I seriously had to leave most of it on the platter! Travesty!

Anonymous said...

On the last Sunday of each month, they are also open for lunch - I can't remember what it is called, something like 'Family'. I think its $60 per head. Greta value, but skip breakfast if you are going to go, and don't plan anything for dinner, as there is just sooo much food, and becasue it is all so delicious, you need to eat it all!

claire said...

Thanks jodes. You know I think I actually prefer Maha to The Press Club, and I loved The Press Club!

Yeah mellie, b-f-K and I opted for the 4 course rather than 5 course (I'm not particularly wild about soups) and even then I was struggling. What was your soup course like?

Thanks anonymous for the tip - though for some reason I can't really imagine Maha as a daytime venue, it just oozes sexy nighttime to me. Does the front courtyard have natural light during the day?

Hungry Hamster said...

Wow, Maha looks so interesting! Love the deco too! Would love to try it out one day!

Jon! said...

Sounds sesational. Straight on to the "must try" list for me.

Sarah said...

Hi Claire,

Thanks for your wonderful posts. I used your list of suggested "fabulous nights out" to find a location for my 1st wedding anniversary. We've picked Maha after reading your description - sounds amazing!

We are going to do the 4 course soufra with matching wines - seems like incredible value (especially after we had a less than inspired evening at Da Noi a few weeks ago with a similar "chef's selection" type 4 course service but not much food and no wines thrown in either for $85 a head)

Have you been back since your review?

claire said...

Hi Sarah, thanks for your kind words. When are you going to Maha for your anniversary? Please let me know what you thought of it?
I have been back once, for a friend's birthday, but that was back in December. I enjoyed it the second time, would love a third! :)