175 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065
|Opening hours||Tue-Fri 6pm-late; Sat-Sun 10am-late|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Licensed, Gluten-free options, Accepts bookings, Family friendly, Bar|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9939 3293|
Smith & Daughters leads a tribe of mindful misfits who are not often represented in the mainstream eating-out world. We all have one: a colleague, child, sibling or partner who can't just order, but asks about the stock used, or if that dish can be done without pancetta. The one who rocks the status quo. Enter, the vegan.
Chef Shannon Martinez, though not vegetarian, has built a culture of cool vegan food that's been able to bend whichever way fashion's winds are blowing. She cheffed at the Gasometer (now shut) during its American heyday (making corn dogs and pulled not-pork) and through its subsequent Eastern European fling, and at new-school-kitsch-cool 'Strayan pub Sweetwater Inn, in South Yarra (where she conjured char-grilled, garlic "prawns" from konjac-wakame).
But this Latin, plant-based bar-restaurant is more than a pub. It's in a beautiful, big-windowed, corner bluestone building, crammed with tables and communal seating arranged around plants; notably, the room-length planter box filled with a variety of fruiting chillies. There's a rocking vibe, with cranked tunes and a mighty drinks list also created by Martinez: coconut, cacao, maca powder (a Peruvian superfood) and almond milk smoothie; pina colada made with fresh pineapple juice and coconut flesh; or grilled apple, lime and mint juice. But the food's the focus. It's a mix of familiar and less-familiar Mexican, Central and South American dishes you could almost forget are completely vegan.
There are tapas classics like crisp-fried "tuna" (seasoned, shredded soy protein) and green pea croquettes with a swipe of garlicky aioli. Mexican mainstays include soft, slightly rubbery tacos piled with deceptively meaty, spiced jackfruit (it really looks like shredded meat and has a hefty chilli punch), or a milder filling of button mushroom slices, corn and nopales (prickly pear cactus). Impressively presented on a wooden board, palm hearts (lightly battered and pan-fried) standing on their ends like pinnacles, come with a refreshing tomato, capsicum, onion and avocado salsa. Pozole is a thick soup that has great texture from bitey black beans and chewy hominy (like rehydrated puffed giant corn kernels), with a bright, pickled red cabbage crunch.
Smith & Daughters does a lot for responsible eating: it sources ingredients from the grocer down the road, makes most everything in-house and baulks at refined ingredients. And it does it with edge. I'm so chuffed it's been slammed since opening almost two weeks ago. It may not be mainstream, but it is a rollicking hub for the growing tribe of committed conscious diners and the curious.
Do … Try the three-tiered, chilli-warm chocolate tart
Don't … Stomach gluten? Most of the menu is gluten-free.
Dish … Pozole (thick hominy soup)
Vibe … Rockin' social responsibility
The Age Good Food Under $30 is available at selected bookshops and newsagents and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.