Maha is tucked in a little laneway with an unassuming entrance. Stairs lead underground to a large dining room with elegantly simple decor. We sat on a communal table in a dark corner. The dim lighting was not conducive to good photography and is reflected in the quality of my photos. I also found it difficult to read the tiny print on the menu and was grateful to my neighbour for reading it to me (thanks Angie).
We were greeted with a cocktail or a mocktail option. I chose the latter. My non-alcoholic Mint and Apple Crusta comprised apple juice, green tea, cinnamon sugar, lime juice, sugar syrup and mint bitters. It was served in a black tumbler with a sugar crusted rim. I found it refreshing with a pleasing hint of warmth from the cinnamon. I usually avoid spices in cool drinks but this was amazing.
At the end of the meal, I was not feeling it needed anything added to it. I wondered about the guests at this vegan dinner. There were plenty. I think I was the only non-vegan on our table. But as a vegetarian who loves vegan food, I would like to think there were more omnivores and vegetarians who feel the same way.
Sweet potato and seven spice briwat. I could have eaten many more of these tasty little triangular pastries but we only had one per person.
BBQ young corn, aleppo pepper, coriander, almond. This has to be the greatest surprise of the night. I was delighted at how delicious the seasoning on the corn was and wished for more but it went quickly.
Saffron rice crackling, whipped split peas, tomato, pomegranate. In the above photo they are top left of the bread rolls but they were so beautiful I wish I had a better photo. I had a tiny mouthful in mine and wanted the plateful. They were the most amazing dish of the evening. Pork crackling was a treat when I was young and these crunchy (fried?) rice crackling discs were the closest I have ever had since becoming vegetarian. The whipped split peas were a revelation that split peas don't need to be dense and heavy. And the tomato and pomegranate were just so prettily presented on the crackling.
Wild greens hummus, caraway spiced onions, stinging nettle. This was served with really lovely soft bread rolls (ciabatta?). I really enjoyed this but because we eat a lot of dip and bread at home it didn't take me outside my comfort zone in the way other dishes did and I felt we were served a large bread roll and lots of dip while the first three dishes in the course were so unusual and amazing but served in such small amounts. It is a quibble as I loved all the food in the third course and I suspect the other dishes were more time consuming to make. And I did have seconds of the dip because I loved it.
Charred broccolini, freekah, smoked almonds. This was just so good that I was very happy to be able to have seconds. Unlike most dishes this was substantial enough to be a meal in itself. I loved the grains and greens finished off by smoked almonds. One of my favourites.
Tamarind and saffron braised pumpkin. Fortunately I love pumpkin or I would not have felt so favourable towards this soft, eye-watering spiced pumpkin with its halo of crispy breadcrumbs.
‘Fattoush’: tomato, mint, roast garlic, baked bread. Due to personal preferences, I was less than wowed by the lettuce and tomato combination here. There just wasn't enough bread in my serving to balance it. However others told me how amazing this dish was.
Asparagus, preserved lemon, spring onion, black aleppo pepper. How I love freshly cooked asparagus and this was beautifully cooked with a lovely seasoning.
others post about, I was very happy with this refreshing dessert with a hint of decadence in the chocolate crumble.
You can read more about the meal on Veganopoulous and see Faye's lovely photos.
21 Bond Street, Melbourne CBD
Tel: 03 9629 5900