In the proper vein of Diagon Alley, Mjølner is the kind of place you would never stumble upon. The discrete entrance, set on a quiet stretch of Cleveland Street, is easy to miss, but later you'll wonder how you could possibly have missed it. Like a mirage, the oversized old-world wooden door suddenly appears and opens down into a deep labyrinth of underground, cave-like rooms.
The Speakeasy Group — which operates Eau De Vie and The Roosevelt as well as Boilermaker House in Melbourne — is no stranger to fancy digs. Named for Thor's hammer, the self-described 'Viking luxe' space is part-drinking den, part-fine dining restaurant. It may sound gimmicky, but it works — rather than going too hard on the schtick, Mjølner uses the Viking theme as tasteful inspiration. This is consistent throughout the whole venue; the animal-clad waitstaff and impressive fit-out contrast well with the R&B soundtrack and a modern Nordic menu.
While the cocktail offering is a main draw and worth a visit in itself, we recommend grabbing a table in the dining area as the bar (which doesn't offer table service) can get quite overwhelmed. The leather-bound cocktail menu is extensive and a little overwhelming, but, to help, the concoctions are ordered from lightest to booziest. The Smooth Valley Sour ($20) is a good starter and comes garnished with honeycomb, but is more sweet than sour. If you're into boozier cocktails, the Highlander Hammer ($22) is their version of an old-fashioned with the addition of turmeric and honey-laced oloroso, and the Kon Tiki ($19) is a super smoky mezcal concoction — both of which are some of the best cocktails we've had.
But drinking is by no means the only reason to visit, with the open kitchen turning out a seriously impressive food menu. As expected, the menu is focused around meat, with bone marrow ($20) and spiced pig's head terrine ($18) making appearances. Both of these are expertly executed, with the bone marrow melting in your mouth and the terrine surprisingly light. The short rib ($35) is also served on a massive bone, but you don't need the custom-made knife you chose from a leather-bound selection presented to you at the start of the meal for this one as the meat falls right off the bone. The sides are classic and hearty, including the particularly tasty garlic and maple-topped roasted celeriac ($15) and seared eggplant ($12). Skip dessert for their espresso martini — the Flight of the Valkyrie ($20) — which combines cold-drip coffee and a fig apertif in a perfect bittersweet balance that is all topped with burnt mead foam.
It's fine dining in a pretty chill setting, which is hard to achieve and particularly well done at Mjølner. Be prepared to drop some cash — but for a special occasion (or even just on pay day) this place is fully worth it.
Images: Steven Woodburn.