561 Barkly St West Footscray, VIC 3012
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri 3pm-late, Sat-Sun noon-late|
|Features||Licensed, Outdoor seating, Bar, Accepts bookings, Degustation, Family friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||0412 498 919|
Zymurgy is the scientific study of fermentation, as well as the new inner-west eatery zeroing in on it. The latter iteration is a casual outdoor-first 100-seater beer garden, a collaboration between local craft brewers Hop Nation and chef Julian Hills from Navi, the ever-booked-out fine diner in nearby Yarraville.
Building a restaurant around fermentation may seem a bit fringe, until you consider all the foods and drinks that are fermented – alcohol, of course, but also sourdough, soy, miso, cheese, kimchi and kraut, yoghurt, chocolate, charcuterie, tea and coffee. Maybe a restaurant not obsessed with fermentation would be the weird move?
Kid-welcoming, dog-loving and 1.5-metre-spaced, Zymurgy is an Anglo-ish outlier in a strip that's more Indian and Filipino.
Here since November, the action is down the side alley in a huge COVID-friendly rear compound, a place you could meet mates for malty middies, add a few (extra crunchy) chips, and suddenly find yourself munching on sweet, soft, sourdough pretzels with fermented finger lime and wagyu fat butter.
Or perhaps some charcoal-grilled king prawns dotted with 'nduja, a Calabrian spicy, spreadable (fermented) salami that is on a lot of contemporary menus but that's way OK with me.
Flathead can be sustainably fished in Victoria so is usually a good choice. It's done here tail on, the flesh butterflied and grilled flat. Delicate and flaky, it's served with seaweed butter over quinoa to absorb fishy juices.
Rotisserie chicken is brushed with house-made black garlic soy sauce and fermented apricot. Blackened and crisp-skinned, it pulls juicily from the bone and is absurdly flavourful, even more so when swiped through a smoky eggplant and miso puree that finds an open border between Japan and Lebanon.
Zymurgy emerged as a pop-up but it's been embraced, so the good times will keep rolling, including indoors where there's an elevated version of the menu.
A low-waste philosophy means leftover produce is preserved, with the results arranged on ever-changing pickles plates. Mine included puckery salted plums, so good with a raspberry sour beer.
There are tie-ins with Navi: the restaurant's beloved sourdough starter (his name is William) is now doing double duty, and beach herbs foraged for the restaurant turn up at the beer garden.
A collaboration between Navi and Hop Nation had been bubbling away for years – brewer Sam Hambour and Hills worked together at Paringa Estate – but we can thank COVID for the fruition of this fabulous Footscray forum for fermento fun.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)