Anyone who commuted down Sydney Road a couple of months ago probably noticed people crowding around a man spray-painting an old facade on the corner of Union Street. That was Steen Jones, one of Australia’s most successful muralists.

If you don’t know him by name, you probably know his enormous works inspired by old-school tattoo iconography. His two-storey rose painting towers over ACDC Lane in the CBD, while in Sydney, his “Hi From Bondi” mural watches over Bondi Beach.

Back on Sydney Road, Jones has painted a 12-metre-long mural on the shared facade of rock’n’roll bandroom Stay Gold and its new front bar Spitfire, both owned by Happy Horsemen, which is behind some of Brisbane’s best live-music venues. The mural is a flurry of stars, skulls and a huge eagle, imposing enough to change the way this part of Sydney Road looks.

Inside, Spitfire is a multifaceted venue – the vibe can change quickly. When we arrive there’s a bottle of natural wine on almost every table, but when a gig kicks off in the bandroom, a growing rumble creeps in (that’s not a knock on the acoustics, the soundproofing here is top-of-the-line, but loud music is still loud music) and the atmosphere changes from neighbourhood wine bar to something closer to a dive. The lights on the beer taps call out to us like beacons. Picklebacks are contemplated.

Head chef Blair Williams spent time in the kitchen at now-closed Piqueos in Carlton North, which specialised in charcoal-grilled Argentinian and Peruvian fare. More recently he was sous chef at Bluebonnet Barbecue, and worked with Nick Stanton at steak-centric diner Longhorn Saloon before it closed.

Williams has spent a lot of time cooking with flames, and he’s clearly comfortable handling the enormous woodfired oven. Look into the kitchen and it’s hard to miss: painted forest green, with a toothy snarl curling over its fiery mouth.

Almost everything on the menu is cooked using that monstrous oven, with vegetables getting just as much attention as the meat. “The best way to express vegetables is on charcoal or in a woodfired oven,” Williams says.

There are two menus. The first, served until 10pm, makes good use of those vegetables, with share plates of woodfired cauliflower with truffle and parmesan, roasted padrón peppers, and king brown mushrooms with onion rings. There are two options for meat: charcoal chicken or a plate of lamb shoulder, slow-roasted for four hours.

Then the late-night menu kicks in, running until 2am. There are panko-crumbed lamb nuggets with harissa; Black Metal croquettes with tongue sausage, mustard and dill. The Brunny Snack Pack is fries loaded with gravy, cheese, salsa and leek.

For something larger, try the God Feather, a wrap stuffed with charcoal chicken, chives, caramelised onion and a liquid cheese sauce. The flatbread is made-to-order then fired until charry in the oven – you might want to order extra to mop up all that cheese.

Spitfire
133 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Hours:
Wed & Thu 5pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–2am
Sun 12pm–10pm

facebook.com/SpitfireMelbourne

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on April 17, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.