Smith and Daughters is a new vegan restaurant on Brunswick St, which is located in the building formerly occupied by De Los Santos. The food is predominantly based on the central and south American dishes and flavours that are currently fashionable.
As an omnivore I’ll eat almost anything as long as it’s tasty and the food at Smith and Daughters is commendable. I tend to avoid mock meat, and don’t understand the point of it, and my dining companion and I ordered accordingly to (mostly) avoid it.
We shared (from the top down): sopa de frijoles negros (Brazilian black bean soup with avocado salsa), chiles rellenos (a large grilled pepper that is stuffed with mock chorizo, battered and deep fried, and served with red rice), tamales with mushrooms and nopales (cactus), champinones al ajillo (button mushrooms in a smoked paprika sauce, served with toast, not photographed) and a serve each of divine little doughnuts with quince jam.
The black bean soup is so thick it’s almost a dip, and is hearty and filling. The tamales is delicious but smallish, so you only get a couple of bites if you’re sharing. The mushrooms were my favourite, but the stuffed pepper was overall the most impress dish we tried: full of flavour, more substantial in size and with a perfect buzz of chilli. The doughnuts with quince jam are perfect. I could eat about 3 serves (of five).
You can read many gushing reviews of Smith and Daughters, but most of them are from freeloaders who went to the opening party. There’s only one other that I have found, from Where’s the beef, that describes a paid-for meal. I share their enthusiasm.
It does have its limitations though. The wine list is ordinary, with three of the four reds available by the glass unlabelled Victorian ‘house’ wines (AKA cleanskins). The tempranillo I tried was surprisingly acceptable, however, so they may do better to say which wineries they come from. The drinks menu is skewed significantly towards more expensive cocktails, which is where much of the potential profit is.
The layout inside has not changed significantly, with the bar in the same space as it was before, but they’ve managed to squeeze more seats in. It’s cosy and, if seated at the communal table in the middle of the floor, bordering on uncomfortable. The shallow depth of the communal table makes it difficult to accommodate a few shared plates and the stools discourage lingering, at least for those with middle aged backs.
It’s a relief to see a new restaurant or similar food business open that understands its place in the local environment and its audience so well. Brunswick St has been in decline for a couple of years, with Smith St ascending to new amazing heights, but Brunswick St is still vegetarian and vegan central. It’s the right place for Smith and Daughters to be and is sure to be rewarded with many loyal customers. If a few more smart business operators can see a clear niche and fill it so well Brunswick St may yet be saved from its decline.