If you needed an idea of just how thriving Melbourne’s vegan community is, you only need to look at the success of Fitzroy’s Smith & Daughters. It’s been hard to get a table at the all-vegan Latin restaurant since it opened its doors on Brunswick Street early last year—and with good reason. Head chef Shannon Martinez, formerly of East Brunswick Club (home to Pink’s favourite vegan parma), is one of the most creative cooks on the Melbourne vegan scene. Her menus have always featured cruelty-free, plant-based interpretations of meaty dishes—like Smith & Daughters’ tuna and green pea croquettes—that are mind boggling for their creativity, design and flavour.
So anticipation was high when Martinez and her Smith & Daughters partner-in-crime Mo Wyse announced they’d be expanding the business with the opening of a New York-style vegan deli just around the corner from their restaurant on Moor Street, Fitzroy.
Smith & Deli opened its doors last week and it’s safe to say will be just as popular as Smith & Daughters—perhaps even converting a few carnivores along the way. Set in a corner brick building just a block from Brunswick Street, the deli’s fit-out is extremely easy on the eye. “Your neighbourhood shop” is painted on one wall, blackboards behind the wall-to-wall counter list the dozens of sandwiches available and, in the corner, a coffee machine churns out take-away coffees (black, non-dairy milk or fresh nut milk) in cups charmingly hand-stamped with Smith & Deli’s logo.
Essentially, it’s a one-stop vegan shop, where you can pick up anything you need to create your own vegan masterpiece. Shelves are lined with fruit, vegetables, vegan-friendly chips, tubs of nuts and a range of Smith & Deli’s house-made produce like organic maple syrup. There’s more of Shannon’s creations in the fridges, like meat-free Bolognese pasta sauce and a variety of dips (anyone for dairy-free tzatziki?). In addition, familiar brands like Tofurkey meatless deli slices and Bonsoy soy milk are available to take home.
There’s more behind the counter—tubs of olive, large bowls of salads and, impressively, rolls of ham, salami and pastrami available sliced and by the gram.
But the real focus here is on the hefty menu of sandwiches, pastries, salads, soups and fresh pastries, perfect for a quick bite on the way to work, a lunch break strolling the Fitzroy streets or to grab something on the way home. Staff, in matching blue shirts and black Smith & Deli bandanas (available to buy), hurry around in the huge kitchen, constantly bringing trays of new amazing-looking creations front-of-house. It’s like the vegan Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
First, the sweets. Expect everything from almond and chocolate croissants to sweet pretzels and salted caramel, dark chocolate and pretzel brownies. The chocolate croissant has perfectly flaky pastry and oozes warm chocolate, while the cookies and brownies are so good, your friends will be wondering how something can taste so good without dairy.
Sandwiches are divided into breakfast and lunch menus—for breakfast there’s The Friend Zone (grilled vegan cheese, ham and tomato on thick sourdough) and a vegan take on a familiar face in the Egg McMartinez (egg, bacon and cheddar on an English muffin with your choice or sauce) among others.
By lunch, the Smith & Deli counter to the left of the store becomes a sandwich bar, where staff will whip up more than 20 combinations ranging from the Buffalo the Vampire Slayer (buffalo tofu, ranch dressing, shredded iceberg, carrot, red onion and celery in a roll) to Maury Ballstein (meatballs in Napoli sauce with fresh basil pesto, rocket and buffalo mozzarella toasted on a roll) and The Mensch (smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, red onion and capers on a bagel). There’s also a specials board—including a spanakopita and soup on the store’s opening door—and if the decisions get too hard, you can opt for a lunch box including a salad, sandwich, dessert and a drink, packed in a convenient ready-to-go box for just $15.
If you don’t feel like coffee, there’s iced black or milk coffee, or a fridge of organic juices, soft drinks and bottled water.
Smith & Deli is a game-changer for Melbourne’s vegetarian and vegan dining scene. Kudos Shannon and Mo, we salute you.
Smith & Deli is open from 8am – 7pm, Tuesday - Saturday.
Image Credits: Nick West for The Urban List