If there’s anything the Speakeasy Group isn’t known for it is subtlety. After already showing off its panache and knack for theatre with Eau de Vie, The Roosevelt and Boilermaker House in Melbourne, its next venue is perhaps the most grandiose yet – Mjölnir, a Viking-themed, 120-seat underground whiskey bar and whole-animal carvery. Before it opens in March, we got the heads up for what to expect from Speakeasy’s owner Sven Almenning.
“Mjölnir means ‘Thor’s hammer’,” Almenning says. For anyone who isn’t well acquainted with Norse mythology (or Marvel comics), Thor is a Norse god and Mjölnir is his magic hammer (Almenning’s kids are named after Thor’s father and brother). “It might be a bad name. It's not the easiest thing to say. People might say M-jole-neer,” he says with a chuckle that doesn’t indicate any nervousness. For those wanting to impress post-opening, it’s probably best to try this – M-YOL-NEAR.
“Once we found the name, then came everything else. We had a backstory to the bar and an idea for the venue.”
“Each day we're going to have four mains: a bird, a fish, meat and veg. It may be duck on Monday, chicken on Tuesday and pheasant on Wednesday. Same with the other foods. The animals will be done whole. We weren’t allowed a coal fire so we have a rotisserie.”
The meat will be hanging visibly in fridges (that have been converted from old kilns) and carved in what Almenning describes as a “carving throne” – an extension of the kitchen that flows into the dining space. “One thing we're really excited about is the leg service. You can buy your own leg of cured meats. It'll be hanging in the fridge and when you come in you can ask for it to be brought to your table. It can be sliced there, you can slice it yourself or it can be sent to the kitchen to be sliced there,” says Almenning.
“We are running some Scandinavian touches but we're not billing ourselves as Scandinavian restaurant, otherwise there'd be a lot of boiled potatoes.” The starters and desserts, perhaps besides some awesome gravlax, he says, will be more modern-Australian.
“We're opening with 450 whiskies and the plan is to stretch it to 600 and then we'll see. We also want to go really hard on cocktails, that's kind of our forte. The idea is to provide the same level of theatre, quality and service as we do at Eau de Vie,” says Almenning. “We want it to be really fun – cocktails coming out in horns and all kinds of things.” They’ll also have some craft beers.
“The idea isn't to have a Viking bar. It’s more that Thor is here and he's homesick so he built a bar to relive the merriment of Valhalla but it's still 2017 and it's still in Australia.” What he means is that Thor’s bar-restaurant will still look contemporary. The furniture will be the kind of modern Scandinavian style we’ve seen a lot in other venues lately but there’ll also be some distinct medieval elements. It will be housed in an old tobacco factory on Cleveland Street.
“The first thing you see when you come down the stairs is [part of] a Viking ship. A local craftsman has carved the head of a dragon, it'll be coming off the wall. It's going to be fucking epic.”
Then there’s all the ancient Viking replica weapons and armour pieces the team has been collecting. “We'll be having them displayed to go with the theme. I’ve worn them, they’re so heavy. I can’t imagine going into battle with them.”
Mjölnir is slated to open in March at 257 Cleveland Street, Redfern.