Leaving Maha, I really questioned the Good Food Guide's judgement. Honestly, it was a very disappointing meal. The space and wait staff are what you'd expect from a 1 Hat place. In fact, the staff were really solid, friendly, helpful and knowledgable. The sommelier helped me pick some great wine, including an amazingly bone dry Cote de Rouffach Riesling. When it comes down to it, it's about the food… and our whole table left mystified.
We ordered the Sultans Feast degustation menu.
First was "Pakenham asparagus, local scallop, basil labneh, gin and tomato chai." When the deep bowl plates were brought out I was really impressed with the vibrant colours and the wonderful smell of basil. It looked fabulous. The staff informed us not to eat and to wait for the next element. Now what happens when you pour a hot liquid on labneh/yoghurt? It's not a pretty look. What was worse was the over powering astringency and sourness of the tomato and gin "chai". The delicate flavours of the scallop, labneh and asparagus all masked by this totally incongruous soup!
This formula of an overpowering element killing the rest of the dish was repeated for the next three dishes. A kataifi wrapped oyster confused with sumac foam, octopus suffat served with a smear of beautiful looking and presented aged black garlic which resulted in an way too intense combination, beautiful (in isolation) air dried wagyu with a bewildering basterma (dried beef) powder that tasted more like Gravox than anything else and absorbed all your saliva and the dishes flavour.
I personally didn't mind the next course of wild barramundi with halva mayo, pumpkin, crunchy chickpeas and prawns. A couple of my companions, however, complained about their fish being over cooked and dry. I found that the crisp skin of the fish matched nicely with the bright orange smear of cumin infused pumpkin.
Earlier in the week, I had dined at Cumulus with a a couple of friends who had never eaten there. I insisted that we get the lamb shoulder. The lamb shoulder at Cumulus has such a clarity of flavour with the fat, you want to pick up the bones and eat the meat off the bones. The "signature dish" of Maha is a 12 hour cooked lamb shoulder and what a disappointment it was. It tasted greasy, like it had been reheated, deep fried for extra crispiness or had been sitting on the pass for way too long. The tabouleh was one of the best, i've had.. but the lamb was such a let down.
Desserts sat with the rest of the courses in the realm of mystifying. The first dessert was coffee and cardamon jelly with mastic ice-cream and coffee salt caramel. The jelly was extremely flavourless when mixed with the other ingredients. The dish would have been better served by a small portion of the mastic ice-cream and the coffee salt caramel. Turkish delight doughnuts had been deep fried with something else (possibly the lamb??) and had what seemed to be a commercial turkish delight centre. For table of 5 we were served 10 of them, I think 4 of them went back to the kitchen. They were served with an almond ice-cream that was more milk than anything else.
We should have complained at the end of the meal, but it was a group of friends that rarely sees each other. It wasn't until we left we found out that everyone else wasn't impressed or happy with their meal.
I won't be back!