Viking-inspired restaurant and bar Mjølner (named after Thor’s famous hammer) recently opened its rustic wooden doors in Redfern, much to the delight of anyone with a Netflix subscription and a penchant for Nordic cuisine. The BRAG speaks to Sven Almenning, the owner of Mjølner’s parent company The Speakeasy Group, and the man who has everyone in Sydney speaking Norse.
What made you want to open up a Viking-inspired bar?
I’m from Norway and I’ve lived in Australia for 18 years; I’ve opened four venues already here. It felt nice to do something that reflects my heritage – plus, I’ve got two boys, Odin and Loki, so it just kind of fell into place for me. The backstory takes the assumption that the Avengers are real, that Hulk is real, that Thor is here. Because Thor is here, not back home in Valhalla – it’s his venue. The idea is it’s Thor’s bar, not my bar. I’m just facilitating for the great god.
Where did you source all the decorations?
We’ve been on this for a while – some of this stuff comes from my house because I’m a nerd. The big hammer we have was made by the Balvenie whiskey company; they thought it would be cool to make a whiskey decanter. The swords are all replicas of actual Viking swords. I have a real 1,000-year-old sword arriving soon, and we’ve been looking all over the world for various things. The helmets and the swords we have here came out of a store that sells museum replicas.
It looks like you guys are cooking up whole animals for diners, too.
The idea behind the menu is meant to be inspired by Scandinavian flavours in a way, but the menu created is more like what the Vikings would eat if they were here today. I definitely think the bone marrow for your entrée would be amazing. The mains change every day throughout the week, so we have a bird, a beast, a fish and a vegetarian dish. [During] our first weeks we are running with a fairly tight menu and we will start expanding as we go. But definitely, at the moment, if you’re in, try the short rib – it’s nuts!
What are your top recommendation for the over 300 whiskies you have at the bar?
My dog is called Talisker, so Talisker is probably my go-to whisky if you don’t mind it a bit smoky. We have a whisky on the back bar called Flóki; if you watch the TV show Vikings you have to try that. Give Japanese a go if you don’t drink a lot of whisky – it’s light, sweet, easy to start off on, and then you can sign off your night with something big and smoky like an Octomore. I have one bottle on the way which is quite special called Viking Soul, released by Highland Park.
As the founder of The Speakeasy Group, how do you find the lockout laws have impacted your different venues?
The lockout laws almost wiped us out in Sydney, that’s for sure. Turnover dropped immediately probably by 30 to 40 per cent. There is no doubt it’s had a huge impact on business; we are lucky to still be here.
The problem with licensing laws now is that there seems to be a real reluctance against granting bar licences. So, I might not get this 100 per cent right, but according to my solicitors there hasn’t been a new bar licence granted – like a general licence – in over three years in Sydney. So all you’re getting is restaurant licences or primary service licences. So whether it’s this one or any other venue, if you want to be a bar operator, you pretty much have to take over a failed business.
Mjølner is located at 267 Cleveland St, Redfern.