Most Melburnians will already be familiar with Shannon Martinez and her indulgent vegan empire. Even if you haven’t tried one of her famous Smith and Deli loaded sandwiches or dined at the Smith and Daughters vegan restaurant, you’ve probably seen her ‘Eat Vegan’ bumper stickers on cars across the city or seen her cookbooks in all the major bookstores. But if you’re new to the Martinez cult, you’re in luck because Shannon is expanding her reach and opening up a new vegan bar and restaurant on the south side of the river at Ovolo hotel—from the world’s first entirely plant-based hotel group.
Teaming up with renowned Melbourne chef Ian Curley from French Saloon and Kirk’s Wine Bar, Lona Misa is the plant-based venue South Yarra didn’t know it was waiting for. Nestling in against some of Melbourne’s best restaurants, Lona Misa will be both cafe by day and restaurant/bar by night. The 90-seater venue will be a nod to Curley’s experience in European fine dining and Martinez’s latin roots, as well as her passion for sustainability and seasonality and her rebellious attitude to fine dining.
“Melbourne hospitality will get what I mean when I say he is 100% southside, [and] I’m 100% northside,” says Martinez, “My style could not be more opposite from his”. But as Curley notes, “Shannon is a real pioneer for plant-based dining. For what she brings to the table, [and for] taking on some of Australia's most unconvinced carnivorous chefs”. The pair have known each other for a long time, but both have “refused to come across the river,” says Martinez, so this project is a real first that will see Melbourne’s north and south food cultures combine.
The menu will be overseen by both chefs—we’re waiting impatiently to see what will be on there—but if we know Martinez, it’ll be packed with flavour and seamless vegan substitutes. The duo will be working with local farmers to source fresh produce, from the table to the cocktails. There will also be housemade sodas and wines from Australia’s most progressive winemakers.
Lona Misa opens this Friday 16 April.
While you wait for Lona Misa, suss out some of Melbourne’s best vegetarian restaurants.
Image credit: supplied