If Les Dennis asked a hundred people to name something they associate with York, what would be the top answer? There are a few contenders to fill the board, and surely one that is not getting the uh-uh X is: “Vikings, Les”.
The successful invasion of the Viking army in 866 took control of this city, and over subsequent years rebuilt York into much of what shapes it today. Indeed, York showcases its Viking past, telling the story at Jorvik Viking Centre, and also at preserved relics of intrigue all over town.
One answer less likely to ping is “food and drink, Les”. Despite York’s numerous great pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars, it is perhaps unfairly omitted from lists of cities with exciting culinary scenes.
Recent openings gaining national acclaim are beginning to change those perceptions, and as longstanding establishments continue their popularity too, York is providing both a learned experience by day and a damn tasty one at night. With this in mind, we decided to mix the two, taking our modern luxuries to the grizzly past, and went in search of the best places to quaff and feast like a Viking.
Besides the aforementioned Jorvik museum, an enjoyable way to discover more about Vikings’ place in York’s evolution is on The Original Viking Walk. This comfortable meander around town with enthralling guide Sigwulf will not only delve into gruesome tales and fascinating facts, it also points out places of historic interest, buildings, architecture, activities and streets, bringing a new understanding of the Viking impact on the city that is remembered long after. As you go on to view the landscape through newly informed eyes, opportunities arise to follow in Viking footsteps.
These will take you down familiar streets of York whose names you’ll now know originate from this era. Goodramgate, for example, takes its moniker from Viking leader Gurthram, and Coppergate, home to Jorvik and some incredible archaeological discoveries, refers to the important trade of joinery; the regularly used ‘gate’ ending simply means ‘street’. On these, there are several old pubs in which you can raise a toast to these days gone by, such as The Snickleway Inn and The Three Tuns respectively.
Indeed, drinking alcohol is something that the Vikings of the 9th century and the visitors of the 21st century have in common. Their main beverages of choice were beer and mead, and there remains no shortage of the former throughout the city. As well as many magnificent ale houses, York also has breweries that have used Viking influences in their creations.
Rudgate Brewery is so called after the old road that led the Vikings along the vale to defeat the Romans, and themes its brews such as Jorvik, Viking and Battle Axe around it. Brew York have collaborated with Anarchy Brew Co. to make Space Viking, and produce their own Viking DNA, which can be supped at the terrific taproom.
Mead may not be quite as popular nowadays, but it is certainly possible to find it here in style. Notably at Valhalla, a Viking themed bar, who serve ‘the drink of the gods’ in a real drinking horn. Less reminiscent of what was actually drunk at the time but equally good fun, York Gin got together with the Jorvik Centre to create a delicious Viking inspired gin – even though the spirit only arrived on these shores 600 years after they’d left!
Valhalla also offers a Nordic food menu, with platters called Thor, Hel, Njord, Sif and Odin. They are joined by newcomer The Hilt, an American restaurant that incorporates Nordic twists and uses the historic Viking significance of its location in the decor.
The Hilt’s uniqueness is an axe-throwing range for sober folk to take aim in. Other eateries also offer Viking influences on their menu, and whilst the reality of stale bread and dried fruit sounds a rather grim meal out, the likes of Viking Willy Salsichon at House of the Trembling Madness could be irresistible for some.
And with that, it’s now time for you to quaff and feast like a viking!