Smith and Daughters review

Inside the new Smith and Daughters in Collingwood.
Inside the new Smith and Daughters in Collingwood. Photo: Joe Armao

107 Cambridge St Collingwood, VIC 3066

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Opening hours Restaurant Tue-Wed 6pm-10pm; Thu-Sat 4pm-10pm; Deli Tue-Fri 8am-5pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Licensed, Gluten-free options, Accepts bookings, Family friendly, Bar
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Shannon Martinez
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9939 3293

There are so many reasons to miss the late, great A.A. Gill, one of the most prolific, poetic and terrifying food and travel writers the world has known. I'm not sure vegans would feel the same. Gill loved to skewer the meat-free. So much so that even pandas weren't spared his wrath.

I wish he were still alive for the obvious reasons – illness took him too soon. But I also wish that he had lived to have experienced vegan food circa 2022, particularly that of chef Shannon Martinez and her new Collingwood mega-restaurant.

Martinez has played a huge role in flipping the script on what vegan food can be. When she and former business partner Mo Wyse opened the original Smith and Daughters in Fitzroy, they shook many meat-lovers to their marrow.

Turkish-style stuffed flatbreads.
Turkish-style stuffed flatbreads. Photo: Joe Armao

Here was a restaurant that ticked so many boxes – the punk aesthetic, the pumping soundtrack, the queues every morning for breakfast and cocktails and at night for the disconcertingly real take on meaty Spanish dishes such as blood sausage morcilla – that for once it was meat-eaters who may have felt on the outer. Only they didn't. Smith and Daughters' mission was never to cater only to hardcore vegans but to give everyone the occasional meat circuit-breaker through clever sleights of hand.

Despite it now being relatively easy to eat vegan, whether you want to do a degustation at Attica, or get a pho fix, Smith and Daughters continues to be the one to beat. That's largely because the restaurant and offshoot deli (Smith and Deli, which relocated late last year) went beyond food innovation and created an entire community and lifestyle.

Fast forward to 2022, when all of this has culminated in Martinez' magnum opus: a stunning, expansive palace in Collingwood that replaces the original deli and restaurant with something that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Groups of four can sit ringside and try dishes the kitchen is developing.
Groups of four can sit ringside and try dishes the kitchen is developing. Photo: Joe Armao

You're looking at a boutique supermarket, a canteen-slash-wine-bar and separate restaurant where artists, fashion designers and jewellery-makers have all injected their touch. Announcing the project, Martinez promised there would be nothing like this in Australia. She was right.

The tale of the deli, with its glamorous breakfast bar, sandwiches and smallgoods, is for another day.

The restaurant is a beast of its own. Soaring industrial warehouse bones are softened with charcoal rendering, elaborate florals, slashes of gold and richly patterned velvet banquettes.

Filo pastry with pickled stone fruit.
Filo pastry with pickled stone fruit. Photo: Joe Armao

Staff float between balloon-back chairs in billowing belted smocks that have been custom-designed for the project, along with half of the art and flatware. Add in the loud, proud and well-lit kitchen arena and you have a serious statement restaurant.

From the bar, a blood plum and bay leaf-infused negroni (pleasantly less potent than the original) is just the tip of the funberg, a nod towards a menu that is going for more original signatures than recreations of smash hits.

Dining on a Thursday, it's a set-menu traversing further afield than the Latin American or Italian-inspired dishes from the past.

Charcoal "chicken".
Charcoal "chicken". Photo: Joe Armao

The kitchen's first trick is a belter. Turkish-style stuffed flatbreads are captivating crisp packages, with what seems for all the world to be spiced beef filling.

Blue cheese loukoumades (a sweet Greek doughnut ball) doused in date syrup are still a work in progress, their sweetness overpowering any hint of (dairy-free) cheese.

But creamy soft lobes of roasted eggplant deep-fried in a fine batter and captured in a gently spicy fig caramel are like a cousin to and as deeply addictive as the trademark dish at Lee Ho Fook.

Coconut cream tiramisu.
Coconut cream tiramisu. Photo: Joe Armao

It may read like a disparate menu. But keen attention to textures, a broad church of flavours and the character-giving strength of the wood-fired grill makes it a fun ride, with plenty of light and shade.

Cue a brilliant summer star of vegan filo pastry concealing bitter grilled radicchio with a hint of chilli, and fresh and pickled blood plums and peaches.

See also a mild Tunisian salad of chopped peppers and eggplant slugged with lots of olive oil to scoop up with a charry flatbread.

And the sneaky take on charcoal chicken, made by compressing seitan (a meat substitute made with wheat gluten) in a marinade for 48 hours then hitting it with the grill and hot, spicy harissa.

There's a lot to put your hands together here for. It's a sharp, smart, creative menu right down to a luxuriously thick coconut cream-layered tiramisu.

It also has different entry levels, from a la carte early in the week to the set menu from Thursdays onwards, or an experimental experience for groups of four who want to sit ringside and try what the kitchen is playing with.

It's a party, not a penance.

I think even Gill would have given it a second look.

Cost: Small plates $12-$21; large plates $24-$33; five-course set menu $95.

Drinks: Wines from the Yarra Valley to the Anatolian Plateau, cocktails with seasonal twists.

Pro Tip: Like to live on the edge? Book the chef's table to try new dishes.

https://www.smithanddaughters.com