In 2009, Smith Street was exploding as a serious dining destination on the back of venues such as Middle Eastern Gigibaba, Boire and later, Huxtable.
Could it come full circle with chef Shane Delia's Maha Bar, which ousts his kebab business Biggie Smalls for a 50-seater of dark woods, arak cocktails and Maltese-influenced snacks?
One can hope, and the menu looks good. Delia's promising meze – for free if you keep ordering drinks between 3-5pm on weekends – through to dinner, with the likes of burek filled with aleppo pepper-tinged beef, crowned with its braising liquor, coconut and turmeric whipped into a sauce; semolina crumpets with saffron eggs, pickled onions and salmon caviar, and Baker Bleu bread, drenched in olive oil, pasted tomatoes, pickled onions, anchovy and a tangy dried ricotta-like cheese encrusted in pepper.
Delia's excited. With Maha East, his other casual offshoot of his CBD fine diner Maha finding its groove in Windsor, he's confident this more laid back, vegan-friendly northern light will do the same.
The back bar is loaded with what Delia believes to be Victoria's biggest store of anis-driven raki and arak which you'll take traditionally (with ice or water); infused with cola or pomegranate, or more subtly interwoven with their cocktails.
Delia says the wine list has "big-hitters", and beers are a mix of good locals and internationals from Israel, Turkey and "a Maltese lager that babies are raised on".
Maha Bar is open Mon-Thu 5.30pm-midnight, Fri-Sun noon-midnight at 86 Smith Street Collingwood, 03 9417 3531, mahabar.com.au.