Nailing the restaurant sequel can prove a tough task, especially when it's being transplanted into a different city than the original. But the crew behind Melbourne newbie Mjølner make it all look like a breeze.
Having settled into the Hardware Street space once home to Nieuw Amsterdam, the restaurant and bar comes just 12 months after its sister venue opened in the heart of Sydney's Redfern. The concept's the same: the space a nod to Norse mythology and imagined as an earthly version of the feasting halls of Valhalla. Though this time, it's been rejigged to suit a new, Melbourne audience.
Taking up the lower level, the bar is a moody, intimate space that's primed for late-night whisky sipping sessions. Worth a visit in its own right, it's sporting a 3am weekend licence, a solid craft beer tap rotation and some pretty clever cocktails.
Above it sits the modern feasting hall, with its neat collection of viking paraphernalia and a very serious display of whisky stretched behind the bar. Here, you can opt to drink your beer from an animal horn, and select your own custom-made knife when you order any meat dish.
The menu was made for feasting and begs to be shared. Kick things off with the likes of rich Stormy Bay clams, cut through with umami butter and pickled sea greens ($23), or play viking with the most-famous Mjølner Sydney carryover, the roast bone marrow ($20). This one's the gift that keeps on giving — once you've spooned out all that buttery inside, back it up with one of the coolest shots around. For The Whisky Luge, that empty marrow bone gets a lick from a blowtorch, then you pour in your choice of whisky, choose the best slurping angle and voila! If that move doesn't leave you feeling like an extra from Vikings, nothing will.
The carvery selection sticks to a simple quartet of bird, beast, fish and vegetable. Opt for the likes of charred bonito matched with a fennel pollen vinaigrette and green tomato ($39), or go large with that day's meat feature special, dry aged on site and cooked on the rotisserie. On our visit, it was a share-friendly lamb chump ($60), paired with a winter-worthy ensemble of kale, barley and tomato, and waiting to meet your weapon of choice. Gnawing those last bits off the bone is definitely encouraged.
Sides lean to the hearty, with seasonal offerings like roasted cauliflower teamed with IPA-soaked raisins and almond dukkah ($12). And, if you're in the mood for yet more theatre, you can wrap things up with a Blazing Glogg ($22) — a flaming cocktail blending cognac, port and cranberry, infused with a house-made teabag of rich spices.
Images: Kate Shanasy