Surprising no one, it did not take long for Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) to deliver a most excellent new cocktail adventure. Opened in March 2019 in same space at Sea Containers that previously housed his Dandelyan, which closed the same night it topped the World’s 50 Best Bar list, his new venture Lyaness does not disappoint.
In fact, Lyaness took almost no time in landing her own spot on the list—number 39 for those of you keeping track. And if you cannot make it to London’s Southbank, Mr. Lyan and his team have also created Lyaness pop-up replicas in New York and Berlin, complete with the unique décor and concept menu.
But if you want to see the newest iteration of Mr Lyan’s menu, you do need to head on down to Southbank. I had the chance to sit with Ryan Chetiyawardana as he walked a group of media through the inspiration and thought process behind Lyaness’ newest creations.
First, the history bit…
In all of his establishments, Mr Lyan adheres to a common philosophy. He strives to bring something new to our palates while incorporating that flavor into something accessible…in order to make the ordinary just a little bit more extraordinary.
The now closed White Lyan, which explored use of non-perishables to make cocktails. The cocktail-centric restaurant, Cub, explores sustainability in both food and drink. Dandelyan focused on the wonderful world of botanicals.
Mr Lyan is always seeking to understand how novel ingredients can play together with what we think we already know. Maybe it is the influence of his chef training, or his biology background, but Mr Lyan’s approach is both more whimsical and a bit more literal than the conventional mindset about cocktails.
The most inventive one yet
Lyaness is a continued evolution of this approach. The lounge, which Mr Lyan, believes represents the most experimental and forward looking of his establishments, is an exercise in bringing a new taste experience to the forefront.
And the menu is indeed inventive. Let’s start with the basics. The list is not organized by spirit type, or even drink type, as most cocktail menus are. Instead, each section is focused on a newly invented ingredient—more on that in a moment. (And if so inclined, you can order a 10 mL taster of the ingredient itself for £2.)
And the new ingredients…
Much ink has been spilled about Lyan’s The Infinite Banana. The creation goes well beyond the banana flavor we are familiar with from commercial products. Instead, the flavor transcends to something that captures the fullness and complexity of a banana, with hints of clove and vanilla and honey.
There is also the Lyaness Tea—mooth, a play on vermouth, made entirely from tea. But not just steeped tea, a variety of techniques are employed to squeeze every type of flavor from a distinct blend of tea created in collaboration with The Rare Tea Company.
The Peach Emoji tastes nothing like most peach liqueurs or syrups. Rather, it captures the bitterness and tang associated with the whole fruit, skin and stone included.
The Onyx, somewhat reminiscent of Aquavit, is the only ingredient on the list that is actually a spirit. The liquor is created in collaboration with Empirical Spirits out of Copenhagen.
For my money the two most mindblowing ingredients are the Vegan Honey, which tastes just like real artisanal wildflower honey with hints of eucalyptus and clover and the Golden Levain. I honestly expected that the latter would taste like sourdough starter but instead has a sweetness and roasted quality that reminds me of toasted brioche.
Mixing it up
Each section of the menu has several cocktails that bring these unique ingredients to life. Many are inspired by old familiars. The Cereal Martini (Ketel One, Golden Levain, Seeded Vermouth) is bright and fresh with a hint of sweetness that evocative of breakfast cereal. In a final touch, the drink is cleverly garnished with a crisp on top with a drop of lemon oil on one side and olive oil on the other—a poetic homage to the traditional martini garnish.
The Tat-tie Milk Punch (Compas Box Artist’s Blend, Vegan Honey, Potato ‘Cream’, Aged Vanilla) is an animal free tip of the hat to the classic Milk Punch. The libation tasted like Christmas in a glass. Not heavy like egg nog, but light and vaguely spicy and creamy, elevated by the floral and spicey notes in the Vegan Honey.And, the TOT Negroni (Porter’s Tropical Old Tom, Tea-mooth, blackberry and tomato seed, Campari) is just a bit lighter and saltier than you’d expect—like a Negroni after a swim in the Aegean.
And now for the real fun…
As Mr Lyan explained the menu, he noted that his goal was to make the menu a springboard. He wanted people to use the cocktails as a starting point to play and explore off menu. According to his plan, customers will use these novel ingredients to request new riffs on standards that speak to their individual tastes.Such instructions can be intimidating but the incredibly talented team behind the bar is there to help guide you. The traditional Sazerac we tried with a hint of the Infinite Banana was warm and silky with tropical undertones. Lyaness Tea-mooth elevated a Martiniez into something lighter and more delicate than the original.
This experimental approach is so much more fun for us, the guests, as well as fun for the inventive team behind the bar at Lyaness as well. Mr Lyan wants people to join in an exploration of flavor and challenge the way they think about cocktails. However, he doesn’t want this trip to be work. We can certainly attest that he succeeded; any chores here are a labor of love.