The doors have been closed at The Smith since December. Inside it's doubled in size and undergone a major renovation that owners Michael Lambie, Scott Borg and Brad Simpson hope will breathe new life into the Prahran pub.
Lambie, who began his hospitality career as a 12-year-old at his parents’ pub in Essex in the UK, found a mentor in legendary chef Marco Pierre White and acclaim at Lamaro’s. He has also worked for the Van Haandel Group (Stokehouse, Mr Tulk).
He's brought that broad experience to The Smith since taking it over in 2012. “We’re transforming The Smith into an amazing gastro pub, serving up food from around the globe, good wine and great cocktails,” Lambie says.
Design is at the forefront for the trio, who bought the site next door for expansion, allowing the pub to become twice as large as it was originally. The team employed the talents of Rodney Eggleston of March Studio for the refit, the designers behind Gazi, Lucy Liu and Jimmy Grants. Together, they traveled to Los Angeles to find some inspiration.
“We were all sitting in this magnificent atrium bar area with a retractable glass roof at The Commissary, a restaurant and bar at The Line Hotel,” Lambie says. “I thought ‘Wow, this would work great in Melbourne’.”
Said retractable roof will cover a piazza-style area, bringing ample natural light into the bar space.
Eggleston also commissioned artist Ash Keating to decorate the interior walls with his signature paintings. His method? Filling up fire extinguishers with paint and blasting them on surfaces to create colourful, abstract works.
And the menu is changing just as dramatically as the design.
“We’re moving away from solely serving Asian-inspired food to have a more global approach,” says Lambie.
Simpson has hopped on board as a partner and will be The Smith’s executive chef. The first menu comprises starters such as fajitas filled with Cuban braised beef; charcuterie boards; and pan-fried king prawns with a satay sauce and coconut salad.
Some larger plates include Flinders Island lamb shoulder with spiced eggplant; roasted duck with green mango chutney and an eye fillet; and a pan-fried john dory with fresh ponzu.
If it’s takeaway you’re after you can head to Smith and Chips from mid-August – The Smith’s takeaway shop which will offer “a modern take on fish and chips and other takeaway food including steamed baos, chilli roast chicken, tacos and dumplings”, according Lambie.
At the moment, the team is putting the finishing touches on the refit, but with all going according to plan, The Smith will open on Friday July 14 at 213 High Street, Prahran.