The Smith & Daughters you know and love is gone. But the new one’s even better. Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, owners of Melbourne’s favourite vegan restaurant (and its little sister, Smith & Deli) have completely abandoned their Latin roots to go all-in on Italian, ditching the old menu for an entirely new one.
Martinez came up with the bold idea under her doona. “I was sitting on the couch one night, just as it started getting cold, eating a massive bowl of pasta thinking, “Fuck. How good is this?’” she says. “Who doesn’t want to eat this right now?”
So, the entire menu was re-written, exchanging Spanish-inflected cuisine for an almost-authentic Italian one. Martinez believes that Italian translates easily into vegan.
“In terms of vegan Italian, there’s options out there, but they’re pretty shit. It’s usually Napoli, with spaghetti, without the cheese, or maybe a mushroom risotto,” she says. “But Italian really lends itself to vegan food. Many of the peasant-style dishes are inherently vegan anyway. The regions that couldn’t afford cheese, for instance, use those beautiful garlic breadcrumbs instead of parmesan.”
Gone are the tuna and green pea croquetas with béchamel – in their place is beef carpaccio. “Coming up with the beef carpaccio was a bit tricky,” says Martinez. “I don’t particularly want to say exactly what I did, but it’s a rice-based product.”
There’s no more smoky paella with saffron stock, veggie prawns and scallops but instead you’ll have beef and red wine ragu on soft polenta. “It’s made of mushrooms that are dried, shredded and then pressed. When you cook them in chunks, they break down like braised beef. That’s blowing people’s minds, because it’s so real,” explains Martinez. “Those blokes that come in and take the piss out of vegan food, thinking they’re going to eat a salad or something, we put that in front of them and it shuts them up pretty quickly.”
And while Martinez refused to make parma again (her first vegan dish, created in 2002), there’s a giant schnitzel with lemon, garlic and parmesan breadcrumbs, grilled radicchio and cavalo nero with an orange and balsamic reduction. “They’re bigger than the plate, and they look amazing, and they taste so great,” she says. “I’m not much of a fan of mock meat, so it’s got to be really spot-on.”
Understandably, Martinez is averse to repeating herself. Making serious changes at Smith & Daughters is the smart way to keep herself – and her regulars – interested.
Whether Italian sticks around at Smith & Daughters is uncertain. “It might be for a couple of months, we might stick with it – we don’t really know yet. We’ve put no time limit on it,” says Martinez. So you might as well come out from under the doona and get a big bowl of pasta while the weather recommends it.
This article was updated on July 27, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.