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Lona Misa

  • Restaurants
  • South Yarra
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  1. A table covered in vegan dishes like croquettes and charred broccoli.
    Photograph: Lona Misa | Supplied
  2. The interior of Lona Misa featuring animal-print booths and a wall of paintings.
    Photograph: Lona Misa | Supplied
  3. The interior of Lona Misa featuring animal-print booths and a wall of paintings.
    Photograph: Lona Misa | Supplied
  4. A platter of vegan food drenched in an oil-based sauce.
    Photograph: Lona Misa | Supplied

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Tucked away inside the Ovolo Hotel is a lively all-day diner for vibrant veg, Latin-inspired libations and conscious eaters

Lona Misa, the ground floor occupant at Ovolo South Yarra on Toorak Rd, is ambitious with its Latin influences as a 90-seat bar and restaurant. The powerhouse pairing of Shannon Martinez (Smith & Daughters) and Ian Curley (Kirk’s Wine Bar) take up arms in the kitchen. Martinez is the long-reigning queen of Melbourne’s plant-based dining scene and here, riffs on her grandmother’s recipes - an apologetic footnote on the menu is a playful ode to her inspiration.

Our group of two omnivores and a vegan are running a few minutes late, however our table also isn’t ready once we arrive. We loiter by the door in the front bar area and take time to appreciate the fit-out. The design is bold, vibrant and strong on the retro-chic throwbacks; a chequer-tiled floor, emerald and orange furnishings, and replica oil paintings. The restaurant’s da Vinci namesake is here too, wearing headphones as well as her famous coy smile. Lona Misa’s large space feel intimate - an achievement that so many other diners fall short of. 

It isn’t long before we're welcomed through to the back room, where booths are roomy, well spaced and have USB and power points. Staff explain the menu but we opt to bypass the set offering even though it’s an absolute steal at $85pp or $135pp with matched wines. We go down the a la carte route instead, keen to try the mock meats for which Martinez is so well known, and vegetables given the barbecue treatment in the in-built charcoal Josper oven. For drinks, cocktails, wines and tipples on tap are vegan. The wine list is extensive, with a good mix of local and international varietals. Tequila and mezcal are all from Mexico.

The service is polite and friendly, although sometimes a bit slow for a restaurant only half-full. There was no prompt for a second round of drinks, empty glasses remained on the table the entire evening, and finished entree plates were only cleared to make way for mains about to arrive from the kitchen.

Calabaza (that’s pumpkin, thank you) gets its turn in the Josper, and is served on otonal mole, made from fermented fruits and beetroot crema. The mole is excellent: complex, earthy and savoury with a hint of heat on the back end. Croquetas (two per serve) are crisp and creamy, best dunked in velvety aioli to bump up the slightly bland centre filling. The manchego gives a subtle sharpness, but there isn’t much kick from the roasted padron peppers. Fried olives stuffed with queso fresco are few but very moreish. The pick of the starters is the guacamole. It’s the good kind of chunky - not pureed into oblivion - and the lime cheek puts us in control of the zing. It’s simple done brilliantly, and our favourite plate of the night.

We eagerly await the cocido, a traditional Spanish stew with braised beef. Flavour-wise, it's on point and the vegan at our table remarks how much her brain wigs out thinking it’s real beef. Texturally though, the substitute errs on off-putting and strangely spongey. Our other main - sea celeriac cooked in seaweed butter and served with mojo rojo - also falls a bit short. The seaweed is overpowering and we want more acid in the sauce. Patatas bravas and a Brazilian slaw as our sides outperform the big plates. 

Desserts have one hit and one miss. The former is the flan, which is beautifully spiced, melt-in-the-mouth and not sickly sweet. It’s outstanding and worth a return visit for. The latter, a sangria crumble, is the miss: too much crumble, fruit we have to dig to find and no hint of the sangria flavours. Though it's difficult to find fault with the gorgeous quenelle of vanilla ice cream.

While Lona Misa would benefit from small tweaks here and there (to both service and menu items), it's undoubtedly offering a unique plant-based culinary experience. Vegos and the curious alike ought to check it out.

Written by
Stephanie Mikkelsen


234 Toorak Rd
South Yarra
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 7am-11.30am, 5pm-11pm; Sat 7am-11.30pm, noon-3pm, 5pm-11pm; Sun 7am-11.30am
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