York’s very first Viking bar is counting down to its opening day.
Valhalla Bar and Café is now being fitted out and will open on Patrick Pool close to Shambles Market some time towards the end of August.
The business partners behind Valhalla – Matt Bedingham and Vincent Roberts – have very clear plans for the city’s first Jorvik-themed watering hole and have let us in on a few early secrets…
Valhalla is taking shape in the what was the Papillon hairdressing salon.
Although the property itself isn’t that old – the original building on the site burned down a few decades back – the interior will have an authentic Viking feel by the time it opens.
Matt and Vincent have sourced ancient wooden beams for the ceiling and other antique fittings sourced from reclamation dealers.
“We are serious about this,” said Vincent. “It’s authentic. It’s not gimmicky.
“We’re trying to create something that is as authentically Viking as we can do.”
Game of Thrones
Matt, 35, and Vincent, 36, have been friends since they were at Huntington School together.
4 Patrick Pool, York
Opening end of August; Mon-Sat 10am-11.30pm, Sun 11am-11.30pm
They first talked about running a bar together a couple of years ago. Then last summer they found the building on Patrick Pool, and it already had planning permission to be a licensed premises.
“We loved the location. It was affordable for both of us. It was a case of, this could be crunch time,” said Matt, who has taken a career break working for a national technology firm to set up the bar.
Why Valhalla? “Valhalla is the Viking heaven,” explained Vincent, a property developer.
“When a Viking had a proud death in battle he was taken to Valhalla. At which point he entered the halls of Valhalla, with a drinking horn of mead.”
The timing is good, says Matt. “When you look at what people are interested in – the TV show Vikings, and Game Of Thrones – there’s an intrigue in that kind of theme.
“And York is one of the most historic places that I know. It seemed such a natural fit.”
Food and drink
And yes, you will be able to drink proper mead from a proper horn at Valhalla.
“Can you come in and have a horn of mead? Yes you can. But it’s not a drinking challenge,” Matt said.
Even though it is a fairly small bar, there will still be room for eight draught beers in the corner bar.
Two will be handpulls, including an IPA and a stout, and the rest on tap, ranging from pilsner to cider to bitter.
They have teamed up with the Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery in Nun Monkton who are creating a unique Valhalla pale ale. The pair are also talking to other local breweries about bringing their beers in too.
Vincent told us: “We spent so long trying to choose the line-up, which we’re now both very happy with. We’ve had that many research nights in town!”
“There’s going to be a broad and diverse range of spirits and other drinks as well,” Matt said.
During the day it will have more of a café vibe, with tea, coffee and cake. Fortunately the menu will not be authentically Viking – those guys had pretty basic diets compared to what we enjoy.
“The food is going to be platters – cold meat platters with rustic bread and sides,” Matt said.
Step back in time
People are passionate about the Vikings – and passionate about this new bar, Matt told YorkMix.
“What surprised me is how supportive people have been,” he said. That includes the “fantastic” people at Pivni, found across the road from Valhalla, and other bar owners.
When it throws open the doors later this month, what should people expect? “There will be a couple of surprises when you walk in,” Vincent said.
“It will feel like you are stepping back in time, and leaving the world behind.”
Matt agreed. “As you cross the threshold and come into our place you leave the world outside. While you’re in Valhalla you’re somewhere that’s a little bit different.
“We want people to feel like they’re in something of a Viking dwelling. We want people to come in and feel that atmosphere, that’s cosy, candlelit and really welcoming.”
And if this goes well, could there be more bars where Valhalla came from?
“Who knows what might happen? Hopefully!”