I have a lot of respect for owner Sven Almenning (Eau de Vie, The Roosevelt) when it comes to cocktails, so it was only a matter of time before I found myself at his latest venture, Mjølner. In terms of drinking options, this Viking-themed basement bar, which opened in March this year, did not disappoint. Named for the Norse god Thor’s hammer, the underground space is a veritable cavern of well-crafted cocktails.
Despite the bar's whisky focus, what you’ll discover isn’t actually a whisky-heavy cocktail list. Beyond drinks like the Highland Hammer ($22/$30/$50) made on your chosen selection of Orkney distilled Highland Park Whisky (10, 12 or 18-year-old) it’s actually a very wide-ranging, please-all list.
The aforementioned whisky-based cocktail is quite exceptional. It is crafted to allow a clear expression of the spirit, tuned with blend of saline, turmeric, honey-laced oloroso sherry, dandelion and burdock, into a drink that should please those who like an Old Fashioned. By contrast, their updated Whisky Sour – the Smooth Valley Sour ($21) – made on Glenlivet Founders Reserve with quince, lemon, saline, dandelion bitters and egg white, was a bit light and fluffy for me, even if it did come with a cool honeycomb garnish.
I suspect there will be more rum cocktails in my near future after trying Kon Tiki ($20). Topped with a fan of crisp green apple slices, this drink is about as far from an overblown rum-based tiki drink as you can get. Havana Club 3-year-old rum is given a Nordic twist with Vida Mezcal, soured apple juice, salt water and samphire orgeat – and it damn near steals the show, not least of which for the long phallic block of ice contained within.
Careful reading of the cocktail list uncovers more updated classics. Poured at the table, the Golden Apple ($19) is a sophisticated and brightly acidic blend of Karlsson’s Gold vodka, fino sherry, apple acid and an apple and fennel shrub, that will speak to martini drinkers. If Negronis are usually your poison, give the Battle Axe ($24) a whirl. Presented on a spherical rock of ice, this blend of Ron Zacapa rum, Bulleit bourbon, chicory, walnut leaf, maple and bitters, has all the hallmarks of the Italian digestif with a Nordic twist.
Now that you’ve wet your whistle, sipped some complimentary honey mead from a small glass horn, and had time to peer around the basement at the Viking memorabilia and lewdly displayed meats, it must be time to eat.
We select our own personal dagger from a long collection contained in a leather pouch. The only disappointment being, none of them were sharp. Use your selection to attack your choice of protein from the concise menu all geared towards sharing, that is centred upon a carvery.
You won’t need your knife for their Roasted Bone Marrow ($22/2 pieces) topped with watercress and a decadent meat powder made from charcuterie off-cuts. The ridiculously tasty gelatinous fat is easily scooped onto bread with a spoon, though if the Viking urge takes you to grasp the bones in your hands, they’ve thoughtfully provided monogrammed, raw linen hand-towels.
Cured Tri Tip ($24) is also an exercise in coating your tongue with white ribbons of delicious fat running through thin red slices of beef. The rich intensity is gently curbed by charred cabbage, caraway and shiitake.
Our meal’s main event was a multiple meat feast. It began with Short Rib ($45) presented on the bone with Jerusalem artichoke puree and juniper. Bird ($42) produced rounds of corn-fed chook on a puddle of buttermilk drizzled with house-made barbeque sauce. There are a few brassica greens, but you’re going to need sides… and plenty of them.
We also hit up the feature beast, a slightly more generously proportioned Lamb Chump ($60) hunk. The crisp, blackened, salty skin was the highlight, but it proved too tough for our blunt armoury to dissect with ease.
The lamb goes gangbusters with Caramelised Roast Pumpkin ($12). It’s soft, sweet and delicious, but poor value, offering just a sliver of this plentiful (and cheap) root vegetable. If there wasn't an obscene shortage of greens with this meal, I could take or leave the Pan-Roasted Green Beans ($12) with hazelnut sherry and garlic, though they did feel more generously proportioned than the other sides.
With the short rib, the blackened maple-roasted Celeriac ($17) with confit garlic is your must-have. Again it’s small, so but charry and tasty you might resort to knife games to spear your fair share.
While I enjoyed my meal at Mjølner, I couldn’t help but place it as a thematic version of LP’s Quality Meats, with less generosity, but much better drinks.
267 Cleveland Street, Redfern
Ph: (02) 0422 263 226