I love special occasions to celebrate the small and big milestones, with *extra bonus points* when eating out is involved. And since K couldn’t care less if we went to the Maccas up the road, I took it upon myself to make the necessary pestering of friends/google/urbanspoon research to find a place (*note to self: should probably make a go-to-wish list to make future decisions easier!). Being the greedy person I am, I actually made a booking at both Maha and Rockpool.. well I couldn’t decide at the time!. After some perusal of the menu (some forcing of this on K’s part), Maha was chosen!
The space is dark and moody, and the maitre’D was vey welcoming upon descending the stairs on Bond street. The last time I was there was for a less-than-welcoming club across the road… lets not go there.
The waitress offers both still and sparking water with the bottles on hand, though it didn’t sway us from going with Melbourne’s finest. I wonder at what point I will start liking the fizzy stuff! Although we were both driving, I opted for a cocktail, the Cleopatra (Apricot brandy, St Germain, Peach bitters, Lemon and Sparking line); tangy and sweet without being too cloying it hit all the right points. K decided on the Israeli beer (made him feel masculine and stuff) which was dark but surprisingly not too bitter for my liking.
What I like about Maha is that the menu makes decision making easy; whilst the al la carte is available, there really are 2 options; the 6 or 8 course Sultans dining menu is a degustation experience, and boy was I tempted by it. That being said, I also love rustic dining which is why we chose to have the 4 course soufra; that is 1 cold entrée; 1 hot; mains and dessert.
The cold entrée came out quickly with warm Turkish bread; dip; almonds in labne; olives; and a chopped cauliflower and cabbage salad; a shotglass of soup. It was presented beautifully to share on a dark board, and whilst everything was good, nothing screamed fantastic. I am a definite lover of bread, so was disappointed to find it fairly tough on the inside, with too much crust on the outside.
We were much more impressed by the hot entrees; spiced quail with a quinoa salad and salmon fritters with aioli and macadamias. The fritters were a surprise, with the nuts being incorporated into the 2 batons genoursly, providng a crunchy surprise beyond the crumb.
The quail gave more wow factor being cooked perfectly; the salad was a textural delight (as I find quinoa usually is). Whilst I could taste the 5 spices on the skin, I wanted more flavour! Still, the combination of lightness from the quinoa really completed the dish.
At this point, I was starting to feel full; the hot entrees arrive shortly after the cold, meaning you can mix and match everything at once. This is probably the best part about the dining; but also means you easily finish everything!
2 generous mains were next; A panfried rockling and the signature 12 hour Mt. Leura lamb shoulder. The rockling was fresh and zingy; clean flavours even if it was as punchy as I hoped. I was looking forward to the lamb, which was fall-apart tender, zingy from the lemon tang, but a tad on the oily side. Perhaps I had it too soon after visiting the meats at Hellenic (post to come!)? These was accompanied by a fattoush salad and jewelled cous cous; both complimenting nicely. In particular the salad broke up the fattiness of the lamb well; wow that is some crispy bread :D
Dessert is always my favourite, and I was really looking forward to the “dessert platter” promised by the waiter. On another board arrived two sticky date puddings with bourbon anglaise, a small shotglass with layers of coconut jelly/mousse/foam, and the highly acclaimed turkish delight donuts. The puddings were wonderfully moist, but the glaze was too owerpowering and sweet for me (and thats saying something). The coconut foam, jelly and cake was a nice play on textures, but flavourwise they only invited 1 guy to the party. Thank gosh for the doughnuts which were hot and crispy, with the small surprise of turkish delight.
All up I was quite happy with the overall experience, with a few standouts and a few I’ll forget soon enough. Surprisingly we spotted the PM Ms. Gillard dining there too (recognised the power suit from a mile away)! And even though I’m not a fan, I did do a bit of a stalk on the way to the bathroom… if she hand’t finished her doughnuts, I would have kindly obliged :D