Jayda, located on the ground floor of a 1930s art deco building, is an opulent cocktail bar by Shane Delia, the chef and restaurateur behind top Middle Eastern spots Maha, Maha East and Maha Bar.

It’s split into two rooms: at the front, a sophisticated bar with dark high-top tables; a chandelier of transparent evil eyes; red orb-like lamps; and a curved green bar with a black-marble top. Further back, through a glistening archway, is a moody lounge room filled with sultry velvet sofas. Delia worked with painter Scanlan & Makers to curate custom wall finishes – with four layers of paint – inspired by the tobacco-stained walls of European cigar lounges. Booming in the background is a mix of Habibi funk (an Arabic funk genre that had its heyday in the ’70s), hip-hop, and ’90s beats – all curated by Northside Records.

Cocktails are the star of the show here, with several original drinks by Orlando Marzo, the 2018 World Class Bartender of the Year, who Delia has been friendly with for more than a decade. Many are pre-batched for speedy service.

A signature Strawberry Cream Negroni is made with rosehip, blackberry leaves and dehydrated yoghurt. You’ll also find the Summer Sour that includes amaretto, and arak from Lebanon; a spiced Highball with fino sherry; and a Mediterranean-inspired Espresso Martini, served either on the rocks or with saffron cream poured over the top.

Food-wise, the focus is on imaginative Middle Eastern-inspired bar snacks. Cured meats are served with spongey za’atar focaccia; braised beef borek buns are flavoured with turmeric and tamarind; tarts are filled with kingfish, finger lime and taramasalata; and there are crisp spiced lamb-and-Aleppo-pepper cigars.

Come hungrier for oozing basturma and kasseri cheese toasties and Delia’s favourite dish: the “after-service sandwich”. It’s a tribute to the staff meal the Maha crew makes, stuffing crispy, bottom-of-the-pan pieces of the iconic 12-hour roasted lamb shoulder into fluffy bread rolls. The version at Jayda is caramelised lamb packed into flaky pastry, served with a lamb-jus dipping sauce and shoestring fries.

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Updated: July 31st, 2023

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