It’s been a long six months in the making but Smith & Daughters is finally saying “hola” to Melbourne.
Smith & Daughters has been a pondered dream for business partners Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse. Their roots are well planted in the Melbourne culinary scene, particularly well-known in the city’s vegan circles. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve converted an old Spanish restaurant in this cornerstone building into a destination for gourmet, plant-based Spanish and Mexican-infused dishes.
Part of their dream was to create a space where plant-based, local, organic meals can be prepared with passion and care. There are no “big name” brand names, dairy or other animal-derived processed products here. Rather, there’s a menu filled with “small plate” or “big plate” choices to share amongst friends. Smith & Daughters deal with suppliers who are friends to ensure that excellent fresh plant-based cuisine is assured. Everything here is made in-house and, as the menu puts it, “with lots of love”.
The space is decked out in a rockabilly vibe; framed band posters and retro pictures fill every spot on the white walls. The wooden stools at our table are so new that you can smell the crispness of the raw timber. Chilli plants crown the centre of the table, each laden with fruit for guests to wonder whether they can pick a cheeky one to add to their meals.
All the décor has been carefully placed around the space and diners line up to grab an early table or a bar-stool along the walls. Staff pace the space to the beat of 60s soul music above and the smiles on their faces accentuate the inclusive appeal of this place. It’s a far cry from the fluorescent cantina-style restaurants of yesteryear.
We wait for friends over a Dos Equis beer and ramekin of warmed, plump olives marinated in chilli, thyme and curls of lemon rind; it’s a satisfying start to the feast that awaits us. Orders are eventually placed with our waiter and he makes us feel we’re at home.
Choices of small and big plates means diners can pick and choose as they wish. We choose the tuna (vegetable protein version, of course) and green pea croquettas that later arrive on a wooden board with a smearing of caper aioli and wedges of lemon. These crispy gems are fluffy on the inside and scrumptious to match. Champinones al ajillo, tender button mushrooms in a smokey Spanish sauce, follow soon after. The serve of grilled bread on the side is a must, meaning we can mop up the rich sauce without worrying about wasting a drop.
Our big meals are eventually served. Tacos con ensalada is a tortilla basket packed with colourful treats such as shredded red cabbage, black beans, grilled corn and a dollop of coriander cream and lime. There’s just as much fun in eating the filling as it is to rip the basket apart and munch away on the pieces. Chiles rellenos is a massive Mexican chargrilled pepper stuffed with chipotle cream cheese and battered then deep-fried until it’s soft on the inside. The pepper is served with red rice and proves to be a tasty choice despite its plain appearance.
The spoils on offer don’t stop there. Our tummies are stuffed, yet we’re hypnotised by the delectable desserts available. There’s a traditional Mexican flan and Spanish doughnuts, but I make a beeline for the tarte de chocolate Azteca. It’s a biscuity base that’s layered with a fruity jam-like layer with a hint of chilli, sandwiched together by a thick slab of dark chocolate, and served with a scoop of avocado icecream. It’s all wickedly rich and I can understand why the Aztecs considered chocolate as valuable as gold.
We recline into our stools for respite, though we notice there’s a queue at the door so we decide to give others our table. We can’t be too greedy when there are more diners to feed!
Say hola to Smith & Daughters for brunch, lunch or dinner. Open Tuesday to Friday 6.00pm to 1.00am, Saturday 10.00am to 3.00pm, 6.00pm to 1.00am and Sunday 10.00am to 3.00pm, 6.00pm to 11.00pm. 175 Brunswick Street Fitzroy Victoria 3065. Bookings are recommended. Phone: 03 9939 3293. You can head to their Facebook page for more info too.