The early success of new Fitzroy restaurant Smith & Daughters has taken everyone by surprise, including first-time restaurant owners Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez, who run the floor and head up the kitchen respectively. Understandably, there have been some teething issues; the restaurant has been booked out every night since opening and, at one point, they were forced to abort a lunch service to re-stock absolutely everything in their kitchen. Despite all this happening within a week of opening, the staff haven't stopped smiling, and the food certainly hasn't suffered.
For a completely vegan restaurant to appeal to non-vegan patrons and avoid any subculture stereotype or prejudice is fairly remarkable. And, the Latin-inspired food is great. For a carnivore and dairy-fiend, I couldn't have been happier with what Smith & Daughters put in front of me. The tasty house-made guacamole with tortilla chips ($12) was a fabulous entry point to the menu, which consists of 'small plates' and 'big plates' — all of which are very shareable. Avoid the paella (delicious al dente rice flavoured with vegetable saffron stock was sacrificed by the faux seafood) in favour of the tacos ($14 for three), which consisted of soft, floury (but gluten free) tortillas filled with spicy 'chorizo' and potato, jackfruit carnitas or mushroom nopales and sweet grilled corn. They rival anything from the many (non-vegan) taco specialists around Melbourne.
With other offerings such as Spanish tortilla with a beautifully crafted creamy house-made aioli ($7), 'tuna' and green pea croquettas ($15 for three), and crowd favourite taco con ensalada ($16), it's the sort of menu that can make decision time a tricky thing... especially if you want to leave room for a round of warm Spanish doughnuts or chocolate tart with avocado ice cream.
The entire menu is plant-based, local and organic, and the kitchen puts in a lot of effort and consideration to make sure flavour is not hindered by the cause. As a result, non-vegan diners will happily return to this new culinary hotspot, and Melbourne's vegan contingent will rejoice their new favourite as one they can happily share with their non-vegan friends.
If you still need any convincing, the cocktails coming from behind the bar were stunning creations in themselves.