The roots of The Kiwi Viking lie over 17000 km away in Reykjavik, Iceland. Hlöllabátar (or Hlöðvar´s subs) was opened in 1986 in midtown Reykjavik, or when yours truly was only 14 years old. It served up sub-like sandwiches with extraordinary sauce for reasonable price and quickly become popular. Iceland has long history, while somewhat calmer in recent years, of hefty nightlife which I took some part in from around 16. A must-place to visit after going to the movies, driving around (rúnta) or after pub-crawl, was to stop by Hlölli for a boat. My favourite boat at the time was Shrimp boat, which was sort of funny as I did not eat seafood on regular basis beyond that.
One of the longstanding employee of Hlöllabátar, Jón, ended up venturing out on his own, opening the wonderful Nonnabiti (John´s bite) 1994. With some classics similar to the original Hlöllabátar and some new and improved boats and burgers he opened in a tiny place in one of Reykjavik’s backstreets.
Fresh from a nine month stint at the first McDonald’s in Iceland, I was the first full-time employee of Nonnabiti. The place was only few months old, with Jon himself working from early mornings until after midnight every day. It was slow going, and at times during the first few months it looked like this crazy adventure might not work. But Jon was stubborn, and kept to the basics: Good food, good price, honest service and long opening hours. With no money to advertise, the place had to make it on word of mouth (remember this is before social media!).
Within the year, Nonnabiti had become a hit, with hefty lunch traffic and crazy nights. We stayed open till after 4am every Fri and Sat, and few years later even as long as 6am. The atmosphere was amazing, with the place packed so tight that it looked like a Japanese train carriage at rush hour. The bouncers from nearby pubs and clubs would be regulars, and at times would help manage the early morning crowd. We didn’t have a lot of trouble though, beyond fights now and then, some broken windows and one memorable stabbing (they guy got stabbed for not wanting to share his boat with a “friend” - he survived). And on the rare occasion I would go out on town, I would be waved in ahead of the lines to clubs, as mini-celebrity - Sam from Nonnabiti.
The Viking in me dreamed of leaving Iceland, so few years later I left and started my globetrotting in Manchester, UK. Four years later, having ended up in IT Consulting and Project Management speciality, I spent a year in Australia managing a large software implementation project. That is when I first visited New Zealand and fell in love with the country. Next on the list was Germany for over a year. At that time I thought I missed Iceland and returned. But Iceland did not offer up many opportunities for my skillset and after some exploring I decided to go back to Nonnabiti for a stint. It just so happened that this was at time when Jon was expanding and we moved to a much bigger location about 400m away from the original location. It was great to be part of that and to reconnect with many of the regulars still coming every week.
When I became the Test Manager at CCP Games, a stayed on for weekend work at Nonnabiti and once again participated in a shift, this time only to next door, to an even bigger location. Yet again the Viking in me yearned for more adventure and the next few years I spent in Japan, USA and China. In 2012 I decided with my wife to settle down in Christchurch for good, a decision we have not regretted. For the first few years I worked as Consultant in the IT space and was active in the Startup cycles of New Zealand. An old dream, that had never been far from my mind, was to open my own version of Nonnabiti. It felt like I was running out of time, getting ever closer to 50 years old, but at the same time it felt weird to leave or reduce my consulting profession.
In early 2018 we decided to have a go at it. While all the recipes are our own, we benefitted from some helpful advice and input from my old boss, Jon, in Iceland who whole heartedly has supported this venture. We took several weeks trying out things, and even had 40 people visiting our backyard for trial. On a particularly wonderful sunny night in February 2018 I came up with the name The Kiwi Viking, because that is how I feel. I am proud of my roots as an Icelandic Viking, but feel more like a Kiwi every day, and will hopefully become a citizen later this year.
On June 8 2018 we opened our doors, and have had overwhelmingly good reception. We are still figuring things out though, and hospitality business in Christchurch is not the easiest one to make work, even if you have good volume of customers. Our hope is that we can continue making good food, for good price at amazingly long opening hours. We want to listen to you, the customer, and continue to improve. We might not always get it right, but you can rest assure that we are always trying.