I entered the heavy wooden carved door of Mjolner on Harware St in Melbourne, knowing very little. Armed only with the knowledge that this was a “Viking” restaurant, specifically centred around the story of Thor, the god of thunder and his desire to create a dining hall that would allay the feelings of homesickness from Valhalla.
Invited by friends, I consciously avoided looking at the menu online or reading any reviews, knowing that any restaurant of Norse background is going to be heavy on the protein, and a restaurant by Sven Almenning (of Eau de Vie and Boilermaker House) is going to have ridiculously good cocktails.
So when I walked through the dimly lit entrance into a hall filled with a wooden Viking longboat, jutting out of the wall, and ushered into a dining room walled by cabinets filled with shields, helmets, goblets, horns and lots of leather and metal finishes, I quickly realised that these guys theme HARD.
Note: The website actually states this is NOT a theme restaurant, that it draws inspiration from Norse mythology and culture.
Variations on a theme
Before you’re turned off by the idea of going to a “themed” kind of restaurant, let me assure you, the attention to detail is everywhere, from the leather aprons to the stunningly bearded waiters, this place is NOT kitsch.
I sit firmly with you thinking that restaurants employing a theme, like German beer hall chains, or American Steakhouses can be so bloody lame. That’s often due to the concept stopping at the decor and the uniform.
Rarely do the staff pull off the finishing touches to marry up the narrative.
At Mjolner it is strikingly apparent that customer service is everything. Each person working has a warm and friendly energy, to the point of making you feel like you’re someone truly special. They also know their shit. They embody the inspirations that the restaurant is drawing from, and not in a theatrical or piss-taking kind of way.
We were welcomed to the dining hall like long lost friends, introduced to the concept of the place by an exceptionally well informed waiter, and invited to enjoy a complimentary Stone Skål – a shot of mead, vermouth and honey.
It set the tone of the evening perfectly.
Horns and bones
Do yourself a favour. Drink your first beer, cider, mead or wine from one of the horns. It’s a little bit silly, and the risk of spilling it down yourself (if you don’t pay attention) is real, but it’s downright fun. Don’t be a downer and drink a horny drink.
There’s a great beer menu to entice you into it.
It only makes sense that after a couple of drinks, some excited ordering and giggles over the drinking horns, we were invited to choose a knife. There were heavy bone and antler knives, lighter carved knives and polished wooden handled knives.
It’s serious business choosing your weapon of meat (or cauliflower) destruction. I chose a heavy black bone knife. Cos it’s badass.
Bone marrow and whisky
The menu is kept stunningly simple. For that I am grateful, as someone who eats such a wide range of foods, I fear food FOMO. A smaller menu, shared amongst four people means I get a huge variety to taste and exclaim over.
I’m fairly certain that most would exclaim in delight over the Roast Bone Marrow. Dusted with salty meat powder, scoop out the velvety marrow onto a delicious slice of dark rye, then have your bone flamed (at the table) and enjoy a whisky luge down the bone.
Once again, a little silly, but done with an almost ceremonial respect. If Vikings were still a thing today, they’d be whisky luging all over the place!
If you’re after a more refreshing side, pair the marrow with the clams. One of our table-mates exclaimed “I think I came” upon the first mouthful. They are that good.
Eat the Beast
With the roasted cauliflower and potatoes as a side, which are both exceptional and definitely not “side filler”, we ordered the “Beast” and the “Bird” as the mains.
The “Beast” is beef rib, braised for more than 12 hours and served with caramelised brussels sprouts and braising juices. It literally melted in my mouth, and in that moment of tastebuds meeting sticky, sweet and perfectly seasoned meat, I could see through time.
Get the beast. The brussels sprouts alone are worth it.
Unfortunately, the poor “Bird” dish didn’t really get a look in. It was nice, but it was a lovely, simple roast free range chicken. It’s hard to compete with time-bending cow.
Have a cocktail… or 5
I don’t condone binge drinking, but I would have found it hard to enjoy Mjolner as a designated driver. From the mead Skål, to the horn, to whisky luge and the impressive cocktail and top shelf spirits available it’s hard to not get carried away.
Luckily, between four of us we managed to make a fair dent in the impressive cocktail list. My picks of the menu are the “Eric the Red”, a take on the Bloody Mary, with beetroot juice and chilli dusted fried Yams and “The Golden Apple” , a delicately crafted Vodka with the perfect acidity and served with a delicious slice of pickled apple.
I’m not a massive Vodka drinker, more of a whisky fan these days but these were an excellent digestive.
Don’t forget to finish your meal off with dessert. The delicately crafted “Bombe Alaska”… it’s set on fire right at your table. Cos why not light more food in flames!
Book if you can
It was a Friday night, so understandably the place was packed so I recommend booking ahead on the website. Or try your luck with a walk in. Apparently the meat and cheese boards, only available at the bar are insanely good.
I’ll be back Mjolner, I’ve taken quite a Viking to you…
You can actually heft the deceptively heavy Mjolner himself. Make sure you ask about the time he was stolen too!