It was just over four years ago that York’s first Viking bar opened its doors.
Valhalla on Patrick Pool was an instant hit. But just like the Vikings themselves, owners Matt Bedingham and Vincent Roberts wanted to expand their territory.
First, they came up with one of the most inventive ways to create an outdoor drinking space in response to the pandemic rules – rustic wooden benches attached to the wall.
But much bigger plans were hatched and then carried out by stealth during those months of lockdown.
“We had a very successful three years before Covid hit. And one of the dreams was Valhalla would always be bigger,” Matt told YorkMix.
“I genuinely don’t think, had it not been for Covid, we’d have taken the plunge. It just made us feel like we need to put some positive energy into something.”
And after nearly a year of intensive work, they are ready to reveal that something to the world.
A new journey
There is now a new doorway on the left of the bar. Go in and take a right, and you enter the atmospheric ground-floor bar that first opened in 2017.
But now there’s much more to be discovered. The entrance hall has an image of a longboat and these words: “They came out of the mist on an icy wind and froze the blood of weaker men.”
This leads you to two new floors of Valhalla. “There’s now a journey throughout the whole building,” Matt said.
“As you come onto that first floor, we call it the main chamber. There’s a large expansive area, which won’t be that dissimilar to the first floor in Valhalla now.”
It represents the time when the Vikings “had settled in England, were into farming, more of the Christianity side”, said Vinny.
The striking main chamber includes a bar, an impressive feature wall, ancient beams and stonework, and a small raised stage for live performances. With skulls and flickering candles it is very atmospheric.
There’s also a ‘cosy room’ to the side “which will be a little bit darker, a little bit more relaxed,” said Matt.
But that’s not the end of the Viking journey. On the top floor, “you’re in the halls of Valhalla, where you eat your feast and drink your mead,” said Vinny.
This is a stunning function room complete with a wrought iron chandelier hanging from the king post trusses, and a wonderful wall image of Odin himself, created by local artist Chloe Henderson.
Altogether, is a remarkable transformation which began when Matt and Vinny bought the two modern flats above the ground floor bar.
They began by stripping out all the fittings and gradually turning a 1958 house into a feasting place from a millennium or so earlier.
It has been an extraordinary lockdown project. The small team have installed about 12 tonnes of stonework, all washed down and cut to size in the hidden Pump Court courtyard behind the bar before being laboriously installed inside.
Ancient beams from a chapel destroyed by fire, floorboards from a Huddersfield wool mill, and benches made from scaffolding planks have all been incorporated into the design.
“It’s been a ten-month development so far, which is which is a huge amount of time,” said Matt.
“But I think people will come in and go, ‘Ah, I get why’. It needed that time – and that love, really – to let it develop.”
It’s an extraordinary passion project created by two people who share a love of Vikings, rock music – and the vision to provide something unique and special.
And people will be able to see it for themselves when the two new floors of Valhalla open on Friday, 22 October.