My poor neglected blog! Have you noticed that when one gets sick for a couple of weeks, it can then take at least a month to get back on track – first one has to catch up with the things that are late, then with the things that are urgent, and then with everything else, and all the time the world keeps moving and one’s assignments need to be completed and rebuttals need to be read and one is running like a madwoman in a hamster wheel from which there is no escape.
(I was in this conversation today about school mottoes and how my school motto used to be ‘Ohne Hast, Ohne Rast’ – without haste, without rest. Which is basically the hamster wheel motto. Admittedly, they changed the motto before I got there, but my inner hamster knows what is really going on here.)
But enough with the digressions! Let us instead move on to the happy, happy fact that my brother took me to Smith and Daughters last Wednesday for a belated birthday present, and it was *fantastic*.
Smith and Daughters, for those of you who don’t know, is a vegan restaurant that has recently opened in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. The menu is Spanish and Latin American, and the food is frankly amazing. We’ve been there twice, always with omnivore friends, and everyone has loved it. And this is because there is *much* to love.
The menu is divided into small plates and main courses, followed by a handful of desserts and an extensive collection of cocktails, soft drinks and a few mocktails, and a brunch menu for the weekends. I am yet to try a main course, because the idea of restricting oneself to trying just one dish when you could sample two or three – or four! – seems horrifyingly wasteful. Most fortunately, my brother and sister-in-law agree with this policy, and so on Wednesday evening we basically took a look at the menu, counted up the small plates, counted ourselves, and then turned to the waitress and said “We’ll have one of everything, please.”
(Can I just say, I’ve always wanted to do that somewhere, so that was basically the most fun order *ever*. I think the chef thought so too – she came out to see who had ordered the entire left column of the menu, and beamed in delight when I told her that none of us were vegans, we were just here because the food is wonderful. Which it really is, have I mentioned that yet?)
So what did we order? Well, from the top:
White truffle foret mushroom pâté
This was my sister in law’s favourite, I think – she loves pâté, but always feels guilty about eating it. It had a good, strong mushroom flavour and a proper pâté texture; to me, the truffle didn’t come through that much, but apparently it became more evident as the dish warmed up, and gave quite a strong pâté sort of flavour to things, too (I say apparently as by the time I had worked my way through trying everything once, I was pretty full, so I didn’t return for a second go of this particular dish!). I thought the pâté’s ‘lid’ of, I think, coconut oil mixed with another flavour I couldn’t identify, was a nice touch, too.
Patatas Con Chorizo
This was one of my favourites. Actually, I think it was one of everyone’s favourites – what’s not to like about crunchy fried cubes of potato with crumbled chorizo over the top? The chorizo was, of course, vegan chorizo, made in the kitchen of the restaurant. It tasted fantastic – at least as good as the real thing. (To my mind, it tasted better – I don’t really like pork, so I’m essentially there for the spices when it comes to chorizo anyway.) It was spicy and a little smoky and beautifully savoury, and I could eat it by the bowlful.
I was really interested in this one, because it included nopales, something I’ve not eaten before, and was steamed in a corn husk. Unfortunately, for me, it was a little dull, at least compared to its brethren. Perfectly tasty if you are fond of things like polenta and mushrooms, but I think the polenta kind of dominated. But it was a good accompaniment to some of the other dishes.
Tuna and Green Pea Croquettas
Oh, my, these are *evil*. They kind of tasted as though someone had made some really rich mayonnaise, mixed it with a bit of tuna, and then deep fried it. Which, now I put it that way, sounds sort of disgusting, but believe me, it was not. The outside was crunchy, the inside was soft and mushy and creamy and a little gooey, and it was seriously one of the most wickedly decadent things I’ve eaten in some time. It’s worth noting that my sister in law, who detests tuna, found that she couldn’t eat this, because it tasted too much like fish. So yes, they really did get the flavours right. My only question here would be how anyone could possibly eat a full serving of this – one croquette was perfect, but I think two more might have been the death of me. It would have been a good death, though. Wow.
This was one of my favourites from my previous visit, and it still wins. I have no idea how one makes a vegan Spanish omelette that really tastes like an omelette, but they’ve managed it. (So yes, it turns out that you *can* make an omelette without breaking eggs…) The aioli was also outstanding – garlicky and rich and smoothly creamy. Just beautiful. (Unlike this photograph – sorry, my phone was not coping with the dim lighting at all!)
Artichoke and Chickpea Salad
I was very glad to see a salad on the menu! There weren’t terribly many things last time that were of a salady nature, and I think one needed a bit of salad to go with all the Fried Things Of Evil. This salad had a bit of everything – artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, roasted chickpeas, toasted almonds, rocket, lemon and capers. Really delicious, a nice combination of flavours and textures, and it provided a touch of freshness that was desperately needed.
Champiñones al Ajillo
Another favourite of mine – mushrooms cooked with garlic, smoked paprika and sherry, served with bread. Mushrooms are always a risk for me – half the time I quite like them, and half the time they are the slimy fungus of evil. These were rich and sweet and savoury and utterly divine. I could make a meal of them and be happy.
Layered Queso Dip
Oh, this was really good, too. And I’m only remembering now that there wasn’t actually any dairy cheese in the dip. It tasted as though there was. Also, the corn chips they have there are particularly good. This is definitely something I’d order again.
Sorullitos de Maiz
These were adorable little golden golfballs of polenta-ish goodness. Crisp on the outside, mushy on the inside, and they went beautifully with the champiñones al ajillo.
We decided that we could skip the marinated olives this time, and we also didn’t try the Tacos, but fear not, gentle reader – I have your back! Which is another way of saying that I tried the spicy chorizo tacos and the jackfruit carnitas last time, and can assure you that they were both excellent. You already know how I feel about the chorizo, and as for the jackfruit, while it was way above my preferred spice level, the texture was astonishingly like pulled pork – beautifully done. These tacos were small, single-hand treats, which was a nice touch.
In terms of the mains, Andrew does not share my spirit of adventure-with-entrees, and can therefore report that the stuffed chillis and the layered taco salad basket are both good.
I don’t normally drink, but I couldn’t resist giving the Spanish Mimosa a go, and it was really lovely – I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you what was in it – puréed raspberries, champagne, and some sort of spirit with a somewhat floral, somewhat citrussy nature. My sister in law spoke highly of the margarita.
The dessert menu is short but it has everything it needs, really – an aztec chocolate tart with avocado ice-cream, and warm Spanish donuts with quince paste. I believe there is also a flan and a blueberry and corn cake of some kind but really, why would you go past the first two?
The chocolate tart is unbelievably dense and rich, and the avocado ice-cream is, I have to admit, a bit weird and salty for my taste. This appears to be a problem with me rather than the ice-cream, as everyone else who I’ve seen trying it has raved over it.
The donuts with quince paste, on the other hand, are perfection. They are tiny, round, soft, puffy things, rolled in spiced sugar, with a dab of quince paste on top, and the combination is delectable. In fact, I’ve just realised that those donuts are the reason I’m cooking spiced quinces in my kitchen right now… it turns out that I’m still craving the flavour.
The restaurant itself is a really lovely space, though a bit loud. The decorations are fun and a bit retro, as is the music – it’s been a while since I went somewhere where I knew all the songs! The staff are incredibly friendly and enthusiastic, and very happy to recommend dishes or talk about their favourites. And the place is popular – you will need to book a couple of weeks in advance if there are more than two of you.
Altogether, it’s a great place to eat out. I’ll be going there for brunch in the near future – and we’ll be back there for dinner as often as we can afford it.
Smith and Daughters can be found at 175 Smith St, Fitzroy. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday for dinner, and on Saturday and Sunday for Brunch. Bookings can be made through their booking website here.