In July this year London’s Dandelyan won three giant industry accolades, including Best International Hotel Bar, Best International Bar Team and World’s Best Cocktail Bar.
For anyone who’s perched at the bar here, sinking the innovative, story-led and outrageously tasty cocktails, the awards should come as no surprise. Dandelyan, situated on the ground floor of Mondrian London – part of the SBE Group – is clearly a bar ahead of the game, with an approach to drinks and ingredients that is pioneering yet approachable. And as a hotel bar, there to please every sort of drinking crowd, they also knock together the best classics you’ll sip in town, from Passionfruit Martinis to Manhattans.
But where do you go next after winning World’s Best Bar? An apt question to pose to Dandelyan’s new Head Bartender Alex Lawrence.
“It doesn’t really change anything. Last year when we took home World’s Best Cocktail Menu I spent the whole night in shock but then the next morning the sun came up and we still had to get up and go to work and continue making those drinks, the same as the night before,” Alex says.
“Since we came back with the Tales of Cocktail awards we’ve had quite a few people coming in and asking us why is this the world’s best bar? I always tell them we never said we were. Ask the people who voted.”
It’s exactly the response you’d expect from someone like Alex, who has been busy tending the bar for the Lyan team since he moved down from Aberdeen, and is as down to earth as they come in the London bar industry.
“There’s no point in fake modesty though, I do think we have the world’s best team and I’d certainly challenge you to find a better one,” he says, “that award I definitely celebrate more than anything.”
It’s a big victory for Mondrian London as well, who took a chance on Ryan Chetiyawardana, a small east London bar owner, and gave him the run of their flagship venue in 2014.
“Being inside the team, the problem is you see all the things that need fixing, and the work that’s ahead of you. So when an award comes in like this, you do think World’s Best Bar? Really? But then on Saturday night I took a five minute break from the bar and as I was walking out I looked back and saw this bar team working so fast, so incredibly fast, whilst still talking to everyone, giving great service, with these beautiful drinks flying out. I thought look at how brilliant this is,” says Alex.
Now with as many awards to its name as there are bar stools, and not just from Tales of the Cocktail, Alex and Ryan must surely be able to cherry pick their team from around the world.
“We do get a lot of applications through after awards but for us its all about the personality, you can build a better bartender. So long as you’re modest and happy to work with a bunch of self-proclaimed weirdos,” laughs Alex.
So what really is next for London's, and now the world’s, best bar?
“We don’t have to win more awards,” says Alex. “I’m not saying it because we’ve been there and done that now, it’s not like you just tick these huge accolades off once, but I don’t need to validate my time here with a Tales of the Cocktail award and I don’t want to be running a bar team purely to win awards. What is next up for us is our fifth menu which is going to be approached completely differently to our last four and it’s great to be in a new role as Head Bartender as we start work on that.”
Despite being known for it’s often unusual ingredients, Alex says there’s no pressure to be going crazy on new and weird botanicals. As ever with the Lyan crew, it’s about the conversation the drinks start and not the shock tactic, which makes the cocktails all the more tasty for it.
Dandelyan is a bar that wears many hats, from its Wyld Tea service in the afternoons, featuring playful takes on finger sandwiches, savoury bites and retro cakes paired to botanical cocktails - to it’s casual pace of early evening tipples before the after work crowd storms in and the weekends which ramp up from casual to the beast that is a Saturday night. With so many different styles of service required, this is one team that is truly proving themselves worthy of that award.
“I feel like the previous head bartenders have painstakingly built a Ferrari from scratch over the past three years and now they’ve handed me the keys. I just have to try not to crash it.”