Most people embrace the mantra ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Not Mr Lyan. London’s leading mixologist has built up bars only to tear them down at their height, like some boozy oligarch. Okay, he’s not that: Ryan Chetiyawardana is a scientist with a snappy dress sense and a fresh approach to cocktails, who was shaping the conversation around sustainability long before the debate about the the straw in your drink. Going the way of the game-changing White Lyan and Super Lyan before it, South Bank hotel bar Dandelyan – declared the ‘World’s Best Bar’ just six months ago – is his latest victim. He’s flipped the glossy space in ten days, and Lyaness now takes its place.
Clearly, reinvention is part of the scientific approach, but what does it mean for a diehard Dandelyan fan? Superficially, not a lot. Lyaness is in the same spot, run by the same team with the same aim – crafting awesome drinks that make you think.
The powder-blue makeover adds freshness, but the layout mostly remains the same. The real overhaul is saved for the menu – seven newly created ingredients feature, with three different drinks made from each. Components like ‘Infinite Banana’ and ‘King Monkey Nut’ are a level up from the leather, concrete and cardboard that Mr Lyan’s used in cocktails before. Page-long blurbs accompany each souped-up ingredient and when I asked a staff member about the ‘Ultra Raspberry’ in my Snap Crackle Bellini, I got a speech about ‘parmigiano water’ that I really didn’t understand.
Letting the drinks do the talking paid off better. Especially with the White Sbaglito, a sparkling, super-zingy drink using power ingredient ‘Purple Pineapple’. Or the Peach Blow Fizz, a sprightly summery number filled with fruit flavours, clarified cream and ‘Onyx’, a new koji liquor made by Mr Lyan in collaboration with Empirical Spirits.
I think Lyaness is maybe Mr Lyan’s ‘Kid A’. Not a lot of it makes sense at first, but you’ll come to really love it. In time, we’ll marvel over this strange, intriguing metamorphosis.