Spontana by name, spontana by fermentation; Brunswick’s new home of wild beers is also home to the suburb’s wildest Thai food.

What do regional Thai food, spontaneous fermentation and history’s most ambitious language project have in common? If you guessed “absolutely nothing”, you’d be absolutely malkorekta. Named after the Esperanto word for spontaneous, Bar Spontana nods to owners Josh Hodges and Caleb Baker’s fascination with spontaneous fermentation, a brewing technique that is much in evidence at their excellent Footscray bar, Mr West. It’s a method we’ll learn a little more about after we’ve decided how many Isaan sausages we’re going to need with our fried banana blossom salad and fish wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over coals. From Brunswick’s new home of wild beers and wildly delicious Thai food, here’s what to order from chef Pipat “Noom” Yodmunee’s menu at Bar Spontana, according to co-owner Josh Hodges.  

How does the menu work? What’s the best way to tackle it?
We’ve designed the menu to reflect a familiar wine bar-style layout, which features lots of small and snack dishes as well as plenty of medium and larger dishes, all designed to share. Guests can swing by for a casual snack and a drink or settle in for a full feast. If you’re hungry and can’t decide between all the incredible dishes then you can always leave it to our team and go with our feed-me menu.

What if we’re here for a good time not a long time?
Swing by for a couple of charcoal skewers, some fried enoki, and a crisp rice ball. Pair that with a swift glass of vino, a wild beer from one of our eight taps, or a Spon spirit, such as the locally made Melbourne Sake Yama Nama wild-fermented sake.

Got anything light and fresh?
We’re obsessed with chef Noom’s raw beef mixed with shallots, toasted sticky rice and mint. It’s like a cross between a steak tartare and a Thai larb. We also have a raw prawn dish on the menu right now, which is a fresh and spicy umami bomb reminiscent of ceviche.

What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
Although there are plenty of options for most dietary requirements, we think the stand-out vego dish is the fried banana blossom salad. It’s a dish that sometimes flies under the radar but always delivers when ordered. Having said that, one of our vegan guests has come back four times for the pumpkin tom kha with white fungus.

Which dish captures the Bar Spontana vibe best?
Our house-made Isaan sausage is a dish that really highlights the worlds of fermentation and Thai food. It’s a northeastern-style pork sausage, which is packed with garlic and is slightly soured through fermentation. It’s then cooked on the charcoal grill and is an absolute must-try dish.

How about a drink?
There are so many delicious spontaneously fermented drinks to choose from that we’ve sourced from right across Australia and the globe. There’s always plenty of local Victorian favourites on the list, such as the Good Juice Orange (a skin-contact viognier we made in collaboration with the Dirty Black Denim winemakers), the Apricot Koelschip Ale from La Sirène and our signature Spontana Martini, which features Saison Summer Flowers Vermouth.

Spontaneous fermentation? Lambics? Huh? What does it all mean, and how does it all pair with Thai food?
We’re enamoured by the idea of a beverage showcasing a sense of time and place, or as industry folk would refer to it, terroir. We believe that the ultimate expression of terroir is found in wild yeast-fermented beverages where fermentation is carried out purely from the naturally occurring yeasts existing on the skins of fruits, in the air, and throughout the entire surrounding environment. In conventional fermentation, a lab-made yeast is pitched into the product in order to create a specific flavour profile. With wild yeast fermentation nothing is added and fermentation starts spontaneously, hence the name spontaneous fermentation. We find wild yeast to be extremely fascinating, and luckily there are plenty of artisanal producers that share similar values to us who make wine, beer, cider and (less commonly) spirits without the use of lab-made yeasts. These beverages have an astonishingly vast array of aromas and flavour profiles which never cease to amaze us. From the texture of orange wines, to the sharp acidity of lambics and the ester-driven concentration found in wild fermented rums, spontaneously fermented drinks have an intensity and complexity which is harmonious with our chef Noom’s spicy, punchy Thai food.

Where’s the best spot in the house?
If it’s just the two of you or you’re flying solo, then perch up at the bar. It’s such a great vantage point, watching the cocktails being made for the entire venue with a sight line straight into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. If you’re with a larger group then the chef’s table at the far end of the room is the way to go. It’s directly across from the kitchen and has the best view back down the length of the venue and can fit up to 12 guests.

Point to your favourite design element.
We’ve intentionally worked with a natural colour palate and finishes to marry into the ethos of the venue. We were lucky to work with an amazing team of builders and craftsmen who really brought our ideas to life. There are many design elements we love, from the stunning porcelain bar top to the breadboard table ends. The show stopper is probably the lighting, the venue transforms when the sun goes down into a really atmospheric environment with an incredibly warm yellow glow.

I’m feeling famished and dangerous. What have you got for me?
Our feed-me menu features a number of our favourite dishes and comes with an ample amount of food, but if you’re especially hungry we usually recommend people upgrade and add on the Hat Yai-style fried chicken. For the final course, you can request the charcoal-grilled banana leaf-wrapped fish which comes with a plethora of accompaniments including chef Noom’s incredible passionfruit twist on a nahm jim seafood sauce – always a crowd favourite.

I don’t know how much more dangerous you can get than chasing that with a bottle of beer from cult lambic producers Cantillon.

And to close?
We offer a couple of Thai-style desserts, including our take on sangkaya phak tong, aka sticky caramelised pumpkin. However, no night at Bar Spontana would be complete without a round of our Spro-Tini cocktails to close. Loosely inspired by the Espresso Martini, this drink combines spiced liqueur with lacto-fermented nectarine and a Kenyan single-origin cold brew from our friends from around the corner at Disciple Coffee Roasters. This decadent dessert-style cocktail is definitely how we like to finish the evening.

Bar Spontana, 4 Saxon St, Brunswick, open 4.30pm-11pm Wed-Thu, 4.30pm-midnight Fri, and noon-midnight Sat, barspontana.com, @barspontana