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It's on the banks of the River Thames, in the heart of London, that you'll find the best bar in the entire world.
Actually, that is no longer true. Last year Dandelyan was voted top of the pile on the World's 50 Best Bars list, which is compiled by the same team behind the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Yet, no sooner had it seized the crown, than Dandelyan's management decided to abdicate in comprehensive fashion. Having reached the top, it apparently had to stop and at the time of writing the bar is closed pending a rebirth as Lyaness. It's not just changing decor or menu, it will be an entirely new concept.
It was the newly won title that drew me there at the start of the year, and I was not disappointed. Located in the bowels of the Mondrian London (now rebranded as Sea Containers London), Dandelyan had won a slew of other awards before being recognised as the planet's best in 2018.
The same week of the announcement, founder Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, announced its demise. "We were so glad it was relevant when it was around," he said. "It would be a disservice to these amazing people, and to what we have created together, to continue when we think the landscape and the conversation has shifted. It makes sense to burn it down, start afresh, and rise again as something brighter, shinier and more fitting."
On the chilly evening I visited, Dandelyan was packed, every table booked with people who were either tall or beautiful or both, and who had spent a good deal longer getting ready than I had. The music was loud but not enough to impede conversation. The art deco-inspired decor was nicely finished without being too showy, and the table service was slick and personable without being sycophantic or servile.
All of which is to say, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Dandelyan and its drinks menu was one of the most interesting I'd ever seen.
The drinks were inventive to the point of being downright weird. As Heston Blumenthal is to food or Willy Wonka to chocolate, so Dandeylan was to cocktails. Consider the Nano G&T, which paired gin with white pepper and peach, then mixed it with brackish tonic, inspired by unclean water in areas suffering from desertification.
Dandelyan's final concept had been to study the "make-up of plants to create innovative, memorable cocktails and new experiences." This was done through "an exhaustive study of "how plants grow, reproduce and defend themselves, then extracting these qualities – a nose-to-tail approach to flora."
That may sound highfalutin and if all you want is a cold beer on a hot day, then I suggest Dandelyan would not have been the bar for you. That said, the bar wasn't so fancy as to not serve a decent bit of pub grub – the chicken marinated with balsamic and Worcestershire sauce was especially satisfying.
Surprisingly, given the accolades it had won – and especially given the prime real estate in a notoriously expensive city – the prices were, if not reasonable, then not outright exploitative. The Concrete Sazerac (concrete-filtered cognac, fermented Peychaud's Bitters and absinthe) I had as my second drink cost around $20 and it featured an edible chocolate stone.
When it came time to leave, I might not have fully believed Dandelyan was the best bar in the world, but I wouldn't have been able to name anything that got so many things right, nor anywhere that made me smile quite so much at its daring.
For someone who'd just discovered the bar, its death seemed untimely, but the prospect of something even fresher replacing it seems incredibly bold and, in its own way, thrilling.
Etihad, Emirates and Qantas all offer daily flights to London via their respective hubs from both Melbourne and Sydney. See etihad.co; emirates.com; qantas.com
Lyaness is located on the ground floor of Sea Containers London, formerly Mondrian London. See seacontainerslondon.com/food-drink/lyaness/
Jamie Lafferty was a guest of Dandelyan.