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Australia’s love affair with coffee is stronger than ever; it’s become a way of life. But exactly how did a beverage manage to shape our country’s culture?

Tarta de Santiago

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The Mjølner “trencher” goes into battle

If ever there was a dish to grab by the horns, Mjølner's trencher would be it. The Viking-themed Sydney restaurant, which takes its name from Thor's hammer (yes, really), wants to send its diners into the cold, dark night well fed. And that's where the trencher comes in.

The star of Mjølner's bar menu, it's a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with rôtisserie meat - pork one week, short-rib the next, depending on what the kitchen's been carving. Go with a gang: the trencher is no regular bar snack. The bread is a rye and caraway loaf from Brickfields in Chippendale, and the meat is slow-cooked with extra dripping to form a chunky "but not at all Italian" ragù, says chef Tom Gripton. "It's all the good trimmings from whatever we're doing that week," he says. "We put a whole pork carcass on this week and we're using the belly and loin in the restaurant. Any extras will go into the trencher."

In medieval times, a trencher was an old loaf of bread cut in half and used as a plate during a feast. "The royalty or noblemen would have their fancy meat and the bread would collect the drippings," says Mjølner owner Sven Almenning of The Speakeasy Group. "Whatever they didn't eat would get passed on to the poor or servants."

The idea for the trencher came from Almenning's wife, Amber, who stumbled across the concept while reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which is set in the 12th century. It took Gripton, a former chef at Yellow, Bentley and Hubert, to really bring it to life. "It's not just offal and off-cuts," he says. "It's delicious meat and quite refined, and also zero waste."

Gripton roasts the bread from the middle of the loaf with spring onion, garlic, thyme and beef fat to make a crumb. Once the trencher is filled with meat (and a dollop of horseradish sour cream for good measure), it's "shined up" with a meat sauce poured over everything, then it's topped with soft herbs and the extra-golden bread crumbs.

At $22, it's great value, too. The dish could more than easily feed two or three. Or one Viking: "I reckon a big bloke who's had a couple of beers under him could do one," says Gripton. "You could come straight from work, sit up at the bar and smash it with a beer. Then have a whisky afterwards to soothe your stomach."

Do it for Thor.

Mjølner, 267 Cleveland St, Redfern, NSW, Open Tue-Sat 5pm-midnight, Sun noon-10pm.


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