Located at the front of Ovolo’s newest family member in South Yarra Lona Misa is a symbol of the hotel group’s dedication to championing plant-based dining across their in-house restaurants across of the entire Ovolo Group with Year of the Veg. A trailblazer of Melbourne’s vegan scene Shannon Martinez – the woman behind Smith & Daughters and Smith & Deli – isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. But Lona Misa may just be her most ambitious project yet. The menu at Lona Misa is mostly Latin, drawing on both Martinez’s Spanish heritage and the Hispanic communities of New York and Los Angeles, where she lived on and off for around eight years. Given the all-hours nature of hotel dining, the 90-seat Lona Misa is open from morning right into the wee hours, morphing from cafe to dinner spot to wine bar. The dinner menu is the most extensive, though. It begins with punchy snacks and small plates: oyster-mushroom ceviche; tostadas with smoked watermelon and refried black beans; and baccalà fritters that do a good job mimicking the salty dried cod.
Thanks to the restaurant’s built-in charcoal Josper oven, Martinez has managed to imbue cauliflower (served with peri-peri sauce), broccoli, sweet potato and mushrooms with the same smoky char you’d expect on barbequed meats and fish. Of all the Ovolo eateries, Lona Misa is only the second that’s entirely vegan, though some dishes can be made vegetarian (with cheese). The similarly plant-based breakfast menu includes huevos rancheros, a spiced-black-bean-packed burrito and “The Full Spanish” (with a wedge of tortilla). For dessert, there are rotating trays of veganised chocolate tarts, flan and rice pudding. Even the room-service menu is Plant Based.
Drinks-wise, find Latin-inspired cocktails such as a Pina Colada topped with plantain chips and the Rumba Caliente, a spicy, Margarita-like mix of jalapeno mezcal, habanero shrub and smoked watermelon (with black lava salt).