Traipsing along the breezy South Bank at dusk, you’d be hard pressed to find a better view of the city than under the London Eye. That is until you enter Lyaness at the Sea Containers. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows provide uninterrupted views of St Paul’s and beyond, enhanced by the cosy lighting and minimal decorations which work to draw your eye outwards.
Behind the warm glow of the green marble bar, rows of spirits beam at you from across the room, protected by crafty mixologists and cheerful servers. While the plush blue velvet sofas, radiant gold mirror, and supple leather stools indicate that no detail has been missed, the place feels fairly unassuming at first glance. You are greeted by young staff in boxy white t-shirts and aprons, with a mellow instrumental soundtrack in the background to put you at ease.
Though the range of outlandish ingredients and unusual concoctions may seem intimidating at first, the bar’s approach to cocktails will have you feeling like an expert in no time. If you are looking for something that no other venue can emulate, you’ve come to the right place. Where else in London can you drink pig’s blood and genuinely enjoy every second of it?
Lyaness was created by “The World’s Most Awarded Bartender” Ryan Chetiyawardana, AKA Mr Lyan, after the closure of its predecessor, Dandelyan. The aim of this new project was to try something innovative and challenging in a city that is always looking for something fresh to sink its teeth into. This venture paid off, as Lyaness has been included in the ranking of The World’s 50 Best Bars – and rightfully so.
Lyaness aims to use global approaches to flavour through a British lens, encouraging new perceptions of ingredients which we might initially be inclined to reject. Launched in November, the aptly named British Cookbook menu focuses on perfecting ingredients rather than the drinks themselves, ensuring that each of the 15 cocktails on offer are totally distinctive.
What to drink?
With five core ingredients and three cocktail expressions on offer, there is something for every palate. The menu is comprised of Oyster Honey, Blood Curaçao, Green Sauce Liqueur, Malt & Grass Amazake, and Fruit Furikake – all flavours you are assured you won’t find anywhere else.
By now, you’re desperate to know if the pig’s blood comment was serious or not. Not only was it completely serious, the drink is also one of the tastiest things on the menu. Team Lyaness explain that pig’s blood is an often wasted consequence of animal rearing, but that it can be transformed into something sweet and rich while eliminating waste.
The curaçao itself has a warm, woody, and autumnal flavour which works perfectly in the bittersweet Plum America-no (Lillet Blanc, Blood Curaçao, Empirical Plum, burnt shoyu, Sipello, soda), complimented by its floral aftertaste. This drink is ideal for those who like both depth and freshness and are brave enough to dip their toe (or rather tongue) into the world of bloodied cocktails.
If you have more of a sweet tooth, you can’t miss the Marigold Gimlet, which comes topped off with a brioche spray that cuts through the tongue-tinglingly sweet oyster honey, white verjus, apple blossom, and Bacardi Ocho base. For something more classic, the Duff Town Manhattan (Glenfiddich 15, Fruit Furikake, green peppercorn vermouth, koseret bitters) emulates your typical whiskey coke, except infinitely better and accompanied by the most flavourful peppercorn olive you will ever eat, bringing out the salinity of the Furikake.
If you like something fizzy and light then the sherbety and zesty Green Rayu Punch (Toki whisky, Green Sauce Liqueur, masa, cashew milk rayu, bubbles) is for you. To sample the creamy, oaty Malt & Grass Amazake in action, the (Im)Perfect Martini (Discarded Grape Skin Vodka, Grass Amazake, Fierfield 'Birch', over-ripe 'nectarine') is your best bet.
Despite tough competition, the standout was the 21st Daisy. Frothy and smooth, it almost felt like I was drinking perfectly iced water. Comprised of Grey Goose, Green Sauce Liqueur, white cacao, passion fruit, and crystalised verbena, this subtle fruity and herby blend will suit absolutely anyone’s taste.
If you’re still not sure what tickles your fancy, you can sample each ingredient for £2 (the best way to truly understand the distinctiveness of each flavour) or refer to the bar’s handy comparative taste guide in the back of each menu. Equally, all the staff have excellent knowledge of the menu and won’t hesitate to point you towards their favourites.
What to eat?
Lyaness is a cocktail bar very much focused on its cocktails, although a few food options are available. If you leave without tasting the seabass and bream tacos, you have had a wasted trip. Recommended by staff, it is clear why this dish is a standout despite only being a few mouthfuls.
There are several small plates and sharer flatbreads ideal for groups but which probably won’t keep you full all night. For something small to compliment your drinks, you can’t go wrong with the olives.
Will it bankrupt me?
Drinks range from £7.50-£15 and are all worth every penny. Don’t try and do it on a budget – there is so much to sample that you would regret missing. For the best experience you’ll want to trial a drink from each core ingredient.
Food ranges from £3 for bar bites to £17 for sharers, so won’t do much damage when split between a group.
Anything else to note?
The bar runs an event called Sunday Lyan, in collaboration with Fever Tree, where the team create one-off cocktails for that night only, accompanied by hip-hop music. Book tickets by emailing email@example.com
If you prefer something more low-key, their boozy afternoon Spirited Tea offers twists on classic English treats and is available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but must be pre-booked.
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Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD; Lyaness