Last week, a group of vegan food enthusiasts met up for dinner at Smith & Daughters (currently a.k.a. Smith & Bellas), to try out the new winter menu which is all Italian themed. Now I’ll admit when I first heard the menu was Italian I felt disappointed. I love Italian food, but I’m very used to it either with what I make at home, and that there a million Italian restaurants in Melbourne.
Well, I should have just done a Bon Jovi and kept the faith because some of the dishes I tried were excellent and I’d go back to have them again, despite my personal rule of never ordering the same thing twice when there’s more on the menu to try.
We each paid $55 (or was it $58?) excluding drinks for these plates-to-share. The menu also boasts a number of gluten free options.
First up, the meatballs ($12 for three). I loved these and counted them as an excellent start. I don’t know what’s in them but I would love these on top of spaghetti. The texture was quite meatbally and the napoli sauce lovely.Â Low light photos with my phone sorry, I decided to leave the camera at home because I wanted to enjoy the food and not have the hassle of trying to take great pics:
Next was the garlic bread ($8, has a gluten free option), which reminded me there’s standard okay garlic bread but also, like this, bloody good garlic bread:
Next, the carpaccio ($18). House made thin slices of mock meat, topped with horseradish cream, figs, fried capers, shaved parmessan and a mountain of rocket. Another standout for me:
Now moving in to the Big Plates and Pasta section of the menu, we had the gnocchi ($22) with broccoli rabe pesto, cream, chilli and lemon. Gnocchi done perfectly:
I was especially looking forward to trying the ragu on polenta ($24, gluten free), as I’d heard so many positive comments about it. I’m not really in to polenta, but as a shared plate arrangement it’s fine. I agreed with the positive comments on the ragu and it was my favourite of the night. The slow-cooked texture and appearance was wonderful and I loved the red wine flavour. The polenta was very good too. I want to return just to have this again:
From here we had a couple of sides come out. First up the creamed silverbeet with chilli and preserved lemon ($10, gluten free). I liked the flavours but as silverbeet is one of my least favourite veggies, I just had a little sample and passed on the rest. Others at the table loved it:
I’m also not that keen on Jerusalem artichokes, so the slow braised artichoke-leek-fennel Cheesy Gratin ($14) was something else I had a little sample of and left for others:
The silverbeet and artichoke sides came out at the same time as the Milanese schnitzel in a parmesan lemon herbed crumb ($25). The menu says it’s big. I say it’s massive. I wouldn’t recommend getting it for less than three people sharing and even then I’d say it’s perhaps better for four people sharing a number of dishes. While I really liked this, and it was very chicken-schnitzely, there was a bit of a general agreement that it needed something to go with it like a sauce. It’s essentially a huge tasty slab of mock meat, though the sides of silverbeet and cheesy gratin could have added that little something:
Then we were on to dessert. I loved the tiramisu ($16), which is the closest-to-dairy-tiramisu vegan tiramisu I’ve had to date:
Finally, the bomb Alaska style Baked Vesuvius ($15). This was a lovely mix of chocolate sable and ganache, spiced quinces and black pepper ice cream smothered in a quince and amaretto Italian meringue and torched in front of us. Very nice:
I really enjoyed this meal and had my initial disappointment of a new Italian menu totally, and rightfully, obliterated. I’m trying to find an opportunity to go back now because there’s more on the menu that looks great: the braised broccoli crostini, baked eggplant involtini, rigatoni napolitani caponata, cacio e pepe, tubetti in brodo and the limoncello rice pudding.
Cindy and Michael over at Where’s the Beef? have a great writeup on Smith & Bella’s here.
Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy