Drunken Farmer, the travelling natural wine bar, consultancy and merchant by lifestyle company Spa Esprit Group, has finally traded in the nomadic life for a new brick-and-mortar home in Singapore’s downtown Central Business District (CBD), along the vibrant Stanley Street.
Taking over Common Man Stan—the CBD outpost of specialty coffee purveyors Common Man Coffee Roasters—every Tuesday to Saturday from 6.00pm to 10.30pm, the eponymous concept transforms the café into a natural wine bar and bistro that celebrates the concept of terroir through age-old techniques that takes guests back to the natural way of making food and wine – from the ground up.
Ingredients are afforded the luxury of time and the power of wild fermentation to fully develop and come into their own without any added chemicals, resulting in a menu of dishes centred around naturally leavened sourdough with a minimal waste philosophy, with pairings of natural wines sourced all the way from Europe to South America.
“We created Drunken Farmer at the beginning as a way to better the way people drink and today, the same minimal intervention philosophy behind natural wine has found its rightful place in the way we eat and drink,” commented Cynthia Chua, founder and chairman of Spa Esprit Group, who has been an advocate for gut health in recent years – a movement she has tirelessly championed through her F&B concepts.
“It’s only apt that Drunken Farmer’s permanent home is a reflection of that, where we continue to spread the gospel of gut-pleasing grapes and grains through a top notch menu that is full of personality and unadulterated flavours.”
With a few good tugs and quick adjustments come dusk, the café’s sleek daytime backdrop of sun-soaked wood, rattan, marble and raw cement promptly disappears into the dark, leaving behind a dim, curious interior illuminated by vibrant neon signs.
Enter through a pair of Japanese noren curtains, past printed roller blinds featuring visuals of kung-fu masters that line the walls, while projections of vintage silent cinema splash across the room – setting the stage for an after-hours all-round good time.
Claim one of the cushioned seats upholstered with kitschy prints at the bistro, where chef de cuisine Paul Albert reprises his sourdough-focused menu from Le Vin, Levain, a sundown takeover previously hosted at Tiong Bahru Bakery’s Eng Hoon flagship that focused entirely on sourdough-based dishes and natural wines.
Each dish on the menu is handcrafted with slow-fermented ingredients sourced from close to home and made entirely from scratch by Albert, who takes extra care and time to allow nature to take its course and coax out flavours at their best.
This is evident throughout the menu, right from the Sourdough “Couvert” (S$12) – a basket of naturally-leavened sourdough loaves made using a 159-year-old starter, along with house churned butter, pickles fermented from scratch and smoked Maldon salt.
Choice cuts found on the Iberico Platter (S$26) are individually dry-cured for months at a time, each with their own blend of herbs and spices to achieve full flavour potential.
Locally sourced goat’s milk fresh from the farm is turned into a creamy cheese daily and accompanies organic heirloom tomatoes in the Heirloom Tomatoes (S$18) – all tied together with basil oil made using fresh basil plucked from Open Farm Community’s garden.
Keeping waste to a minimum means utilising every component of each ingredient in any way possible.
Sourdough Karaage (S$20) featuring slow-marinated crispy chicken thigh gets its name from its tangy batter made using sourdough discard, served with a side of kimchi mayonnaise that carries its own tang from house-fermented kimchi.
Heads and shells of prawns that go into the laksa sambal slathered Blue Prawn Roll (S$22) are repurposed to create an addictive, briny prawn drip that is enjoyed with the jet-black, house made Squid Ink Crackers (S$13), that is then topped with soy marinated sago pearls to mimic the texture of caviar.
Stealing the spotlight is the rotating selection of sourdough pizzas that each begins with a stiffer sourdough base and takes about 30 hours of fermentation to bring about a chewy, airy crust and an assertive tang reminiscent of the Neapolitan style that would work just as well with a classic Margherita (S$20) as it would a combination as intriguing as Ricotta and Dried Tomatoes (S$22), which layers over a ricotta base with slow roasted heirloom tomatoes and eggplants, fresh arugula seasoned with an herbaceous oil, shredded manchego cheese and fragrant garlic flakes.
Complementing the food menu is an exciting arsenal of over 80 natural, organic, biodynamic and sustainably-farmed labels sourced straight from winemakers from France, Italy, Chile and Spain— some of which exclusively imported by Drunken Farmer.
The man behind the curation of wines is Eduardo Bayo, a natural wine expert who was plucked from the thick of Montreal’s natural wine scene by Chua to champion the grower-to-glass movement in Singapore.
With plans to double the selection in coming months, and 16 labels spanning the gamut of white, red, sparkling, rosé and orange wines already available by glass, Bayo works closely with Chua—both of whom have personally worked with the winemakers and visited their vineyards—to keep the selection best-in-class, fresh and rife with unexpected discoveries.
From Lise et Bertrand Jousset’s ’Vilain P’tit Ch’nin’, a vibrant and refreshing Loire Valley chenin blanc hand harvested from vines grown on clay and silex soils that are free of herbicides or pesticides; to Domaine Christian Binner’s ‘Si Rose’, a cross between Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminner macerated on skins to reveal a feminine bouquet of rose petals that keeps things fresh and floral, the wines under Drunken Farmer’s repertoire are all crafted with absolute care and without any man-made additives from the ground up.