Set on the Thames’s South Bank on the ground level of London’s Sea Containers (formerly the Mondrian Hotel), Dandelyan is the second cocktail bar by author and acclaimed bartender Ryan “Mr. Lyan” Chetiyawardana (who also owns White Lyan, a bar famous for omitting perishable ingredients—including ice—from its drinks). A celebration of botanical life, Dandelyan further supports Chetiyawardana’s reputation as one of the world’s most inventive mixologists by serving drinks so otherworldly they seem to have been concocted mid–vision quest.
Dandelyan’s Tom Dixon–designed interior is sophisticated and lurid, the latter thanks in part to a sofa as plump, pink, and snake-y as a small intestine. Brass, walnut, and forest-green velvet contribute to an overall “David Bowie goes foxhunting” air, while menus and print material feature eye-candy botanical prints in alien colours: Klein-blue oranges, purple pineapples, and cherries the acid-green colour of nuclear waste.
Dandelyan serves drinks so otherworldly they seem to have been concocted mid–vision quest.
The menu listings themselves are unusually detailed—a recommended time of day to enjoy each drink is noted, a trio of descriptors emphasize tasting notes, and short paragraphs elucidate the inspirations behind every concoction. This could seem like much, yet Chetiyawardana’s cocktails all happen to have gripping origins. Take the Diamond Daisy, for instance, which is flavoured with pandan, a plant with a high silicon dioxide content that thrives in areas where diamonds are concealed in the earth. Or, the Love & Money, made with parsley root wine in a nod to a long-extinct parsley relative with heart-shaped leaves that the Romans used both as currency and contraceptive. “Accessible innovation has always been an aim for us,” says Chetiyawardana, “but we wanted it to be the balance of exciting and accessible. Few people are going to know what, say, mummified citrus is going to taste like, so we wanted to explain why we used it, but also what its flavour is like. This then allows those who want to know more to be able to get the background and information, but those who just want a tasty drink can select one and do so quickly and accurately, too.”
Yet rather than interpret all the flavours in his drinks hyper-literally, Chetiyawardana attempts to take a concept, something “universal, or fascinating or baffling”, and translate it in a communicable way through taste. “On the current menu we explore how plants have shaped civilization (rather than vice versa), so there was a wealth of stories to play on,” he says. Dandelyan’s menu was awarded the title of “World’s Best Cocktail Menu”, as well as “Best New International Cocktail Bar” soon after opening in 2014.
If Chetiyawardana’s recondite approach makes for fun drinking, his prioritization of sustainable practises behind the bar adds extra integrity to Dandelyan’s elevated, nature-lover vibe. (Chetiyawardana applies a “nose-to-tail” mentality to plants, and works with growers to minimize the environmental footprint of imported ingredients.) Amid London’s vast and impressive bar scene, Dandelyan has set itself apart as an unusual and compelling spot for thoroughly distinctive cocktails—an eccentric oasis that must be experienced.
Dandelyan in the Mondrian Hotel, 20 Upper Ground, London, England SE1 9PD, +44 (0)20 3747 1000.