The look might be historic Vikings, but this Hardware Lane bunker bar is serving seriously forward-thinking cocktails
How much would you pay to imbibe your next frothy from a Viking drinking horn? At Mjolner, a Norse mythology-themed bar under Hardware Lane, a few extra dollars gets you upgraded from lowly glassware to a forearm-sized vessel, embellished with gold and set majestically upright on a custom-made frame. Sure, wrenching out the hefty thing every time you want a swig of orange blossom mead may be a more trouble than it’s worth, and your table neighbours will be on high eye-gouge alert, but think of the fun!
Kick things off by toasting to the bountiful harvest, victorious battle, or just Friday, with a shot of Aquavit, the herbaceous spirit elemental to Scandinavian celebration. The liquor’s dominant caraway flavour is partnered with an infusion of dried apricot and oak, stripping the palate clean with ferocious earthiness. While there’s a serviceable list of mostly antipodean, French and Spanish wines, plus some pricey imported beers including a $100 Mikkeller sour ale from Denmark, you’re wisest to save your silver for the cocktails, the craft for which owner Sven Almenning (Eau de Vie, Boilermaker House) and the Speakeasy Group have made their name.
Fans of EDV will be familiar with the formula of elaborate descriptions, obscure ingredients, and theatrical presentation. Luckily, it all adds up to delicious drinks. The Northern Lights is a take on a Cobbler, combining gin and the concentrated sweetness of a riesling-based ice wine with sorrel and elderflower cordial, before a dash of malic acid knocks it back into balance. Bracingly cold, bright and limey-fresh, it’s the antithesis to Breakfast in Folkvangr, which is a clarified milk punch with cognac, muesli washed milk, lemon and fireweed-infused tokay, a Hungarian sweet wine. It’s soothing and gently complex, revealing whispers of honey, raisin and florals.
For full-scale feasting there’s a restaurant upstairs offering all manner of meaty nutriment, but at the bar you can still score on-brand snackage in spicy, sinewy strips of biltong, a South African cousin of jerky, or Vegemite-fortified roast bone marrow, served dramatically in situ, for spreading over dark, malty bread.
In Mjolner, Almenning brings together his Norwegian heritage and knack for opening tightly-themed bars to create a venue no one knew they were missing but are pretty happy to have. Like the original that opened in Sydney last year, they’ve indulged and invested in the concept – brick walls are carved out with displays of helmets and battle axes, animal hides line the floors, and having tattoos and looking good in a leather apron appears part of the selection criteria for a job here. They’ve flung enough cash at the fixtures so that the vibe is more Valhalla-luxe than Viking beer hall, so much so that both outposts have had trouble with light-fingered patrons making souvenirs out of decor and glassware.
This isn’t the kind of place you’d go on the regular, with its pricey beers and hypertension-courting menu. And the service, while polite, could do with a booster shot of gregariousness to help lift the mood from hushed CBD parlour to the convivial drinking hole it deserves to be. But bells and whistles and magic hammers aside, this is a top tier cocktail bar, with creations that are imaginative, original and presented with joy-sparking flourish. If nothing else, everybody knows somebody that would hand over their hoard for the opportunity to drink out a viking horn. You should take them here.
106 Hardware Street
|Opening hours:||Sun-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat 5pm-3am|
1kg Tomahawk Steak with Bone Marrow Bordelaise - $110 (serves 2-4 ppl)
. Terms and Conditions: Maximum of 20 diners. Includes VAT, excludes service. Valid For: 2 - 20 People Wed 5:00PM-10:00PMOffer valid until Oct 20 2019