Hours before doors opened on the freshly face-lifted Maha, the place was teeming with builders adding the finishing touches to a $1 million renovation.
Walls have gone, the entrance has changed and a white-and-teal colour scheme has lightened and brightened the subterranean city dining room, which now seats 130.
The restaurant closed on New Year's Eve for the five-week refresh. Owner-chef Shane Delia, who bought out business partners Made Establishment in July 2013, says it was a chance to create the restaurant he'd always wanted.
"Maha has changed a lot in the last eight years, and I'm not the same person I was when we opened," says Delia.
Maha 2.0 is more relaxed and open, although there are several private and semi-private zones, including a rear private dining room that seats 20.
The "unrestricted Middle Eastern" menu remains much the same, although Delia is including more light, clean options. But fear not, burger fans: the $18 beer and burger deal is still available at lunch Monday to Friday.
Meanwhile, Delia is looking for the perfect site to launch Biggie Smalls, a takeaway concept selling affordable kebabs and fries. He's done the recipe development, designed the uniforms and logo and created a '90s hip hop soundtrack. All he needs now is the venue.
Maha, 21 Bond Street, Melbourne, 9629 5900, maharestaurant.com.au