Dandelyan, Southbank

Ryan Chetiyawardana, or Mr Lyan as he’s also known, is a cocktail connoisseur like no other… winning accolades with every bar he opens around the capital. Dandelyan is perhaps his more celebrated and accessible bar, found within the stylish riverside Mondrian hotel and serving up pretty, innovative drinks and intriguing reinventions of the classics.

Dandelyan

The sophisticated bar is located on the ground floor of the hotel, with tables overlooking the River Thames. It is a vision of moody hues, with a dark green marble bar and pale pink leather chairs. The staff are knowledgeable and well informed, and brought over the Botany inspired menu to us immediately, carefully explaining each concoction.

Dandelyan

The menu guide book, which is currently on its 4th edition, lists drinks in terms of light and rich, recommending the ideal time of day to drink them. We started with the ‘Rocks Off Manhattan’ and ‘Sweetheart Sazerac’ before moving on to the ‘Koji Hardshake’ and ‘Forty Coin Fizz’.

Our overall favourite was the ‘Rocks Off Manhattan’ a strong but smooth mix of Rusted Copper Dog Scotch, chokecherry grenadine and pine nut vermouth. The drink was rich but also had a fruity, nutty flavour… a delicious start (or end) to any evening. The ‘Koji Hardshake’ is one of the Dandelyan Classics, which has remained on the menu for a while. An unlifting short drink with Dewar’s 12yo Scotch, lemon, koji and cream sugar and liquorice bitters. For something a little lighter opt for the dry and fizzy ‘Forty Coin Fizz’, a gin based cocktail with ginko leaf, lemon and “silver apricot”.

Dandelyan

The bar food menu has a short but tempting offering of snacks. The Sea Containers Flatbread with Kale, Truffle and Chestnuts was an indulgent hit. I’d also recommend the salty bitter Padron Peppers and the moreish Mondrian chips with garlic and chilli aioli.

Dandelyan

Whether you are popping in for a quick afterwork tipple or date night drinks, Dandelyan has got a cocktail to suit every occasion and every palate.

More information and book a table at Dandelyan here.

A trip to Islay with The Botanist Gin

If you have heard of Islay, it is most likely you know about this island because of its historic whisky making tradition.

The Hebrides is an archipelago comprising hundreds of islands off the northwest coast of Scotland. Divided into the Inner and Outer Hebrides groups, they are lands of rugged landscapes, fishing villages and remote Gaelic-speaking communities. Islay is the southernmost of the Inner Hebrides islands, home to many famed whisky brands including Bruichladdich.

In 2011 the Bruichladdich brand on Islay launched a small-batch gin, inspired by the numerous wild botanicals growing on the island. The recipe, along with the nine classic gin aromatics, includes 22 botanicals, each chosen for their varying flavours and qualities. The gin is carefully distilled over 17 hours to produce a complex and distinctive final product. The Botanist Gin is the only gin made on Islay and, in the last five years has become just as well known as the company’s whisky.

The Botanist Gin

Remote and beautiful, Islay is not very accessible, but daily flights do fly from Glasgow, dependant on weather. The island has just over 3000 inhabitants and plenty of beautiful wildlife. Flying in over the sea to the island airport was a wonderful opportunity to admire the beautiful island from the sky.

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The Bruichladdich / Botanist distillery sits opposite the western shore of Loch Indaal on Islay with the rugged beach just steps from the building. On arrival we were shown round the boutique shop before going on a tour round the working factory. This extraordinary gin was first made by the former head distiller Jim McEwan in the affectionately named ‘Ugly Betty’ Lomond pot-still, a wonderful piece of salvaged equipment which is still in use today.

The Botanist Gin

Next we visited a natural spring, which, after being rediscovered, began to be used as a diluter for the Bruichladdich whisky. We collected our own glasses of pure cold water, the freshest drink you could imagine tasting. It was also a lovely opportunity to soak up some clean island air and admire our new, unspoilt surroundings.

The Botanist GinThe Botanist Gin

After a quick lunchbreak it was back to the factory where we met original botanical collectors Dr. Richard and Mavis Gulliver who explained the qualities of each of the 22 botanicals and why they were selected for the final Botanist recipe. Richard and Mavis are incredibly knowledgeable and answered all our questions about the story of The Botanist Gin. As well as common botanicals like Chamomile and Heather, the gin also contains unusual flavours of Tansy, White Clover, Mugwort and Creeping Thistle, among many others.

The Botanist GinThe Botanist GinThe Botanist Gin

The second day of our trip began nice and early. After a wholesome ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast we were up and out of the house, head to toe in waterproofs, thanks to the unpredictably wet weather. Expert forager Mark Williams met us in the garden before we began our foraging walk round the area to see some of The Botanist Gin 22 botanicals in their natural habitat.

It was fascinating to learn about the abundance of edible plants and herbs on the island. Mark was a wonderful teacher, pointing out poisonous species and edible leaves as we went. At every stop he produced a bottle or container from his foraging rucksack containing a herbaceous syrup or plant-flavoured cake he’d made, all from ingredients on the island.

We tasted delicious sorrel, smelt sweet meadowsweet and discovered hollow Angelica stem, which makes ideal straws for cocktails!

The Botanist GinThe Botanist Gin

After a tiring but exhilarating morning of foraging in the rain we took shelter in a disused (and naturally distressed old barn) for a lovely lunch of island treats. Mark whipped up some whisky soaked mushrooms and offered round local cheeses and leaves, while Botanist brand ambassador Abigail Clephane made us all a warming gin hot toddy. It was a beautiful and equally comforting meal.

The Botanist GinThe Botanist Gin

For our final evening we were treated to a meal by Craig Grozier, a brilliant Scottish chef and regular Botanist Gin collaborator. The meal, matched with Abigail’s cocktails, was a triumph of seasonal Islay produce with a clear emphasis on the flavours of foraging. Particularly memorable was the homemade bread and whipped butter and the floral and inventive dessert of Rosaceae, Milk, Kingsville Honey and Oats.

The Botanist Gin

The Botanist Gin is a traditional but innovative spirit, delicious served straight or as part of a cocktail recipe. After experiencing the magical island of Islay, picking the botanicals myself, I can completely understand why The Botanist is such a special, unique and flavoursome gin.

More information about The Botanist Gin here.

Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart x Bloom & Wild

As a freelancer I spend a lot of time writing and editing photos at home, making endless cups of tea and sitting in my pyjamas. The mid-morning arrival of the postman is always the highlight of the day, especially when the delivery includes a box of flowers from Bloom & Wild.

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Last week I joined a joined a gaggle of girls (all dressed to impress in floral outfits) for the launch of the limited edition Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart x Bloom & Wild collection.

Nikki Tibbles is the founder and much loved florist from Wild at Heart in Westbourne Grove and the often-instagrammed Liberty flower shop. As well as adorning many top London Fashion Week runway shows with her floral artistry she has been commissioned by the V&A, the British Fashion Council and the Royal Palaces.

Bloom & Wild are the revolutionary flower delivery service, who efficiently and effectively deliver beautiful boxed bunches through your letterbox. They are often voted the UK’s top rated flower delivery company.

Together Nikki Tibbles and Bloom & Wild have created a series of limited edition bouquets, which feature the finest selections of flowers, all delivered to your doorstep.

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The launch event was hosted at a prestigious London members club… we sipped floral cocktails and dined on delightful canapes whilst admiring the beautiful floral displays by Nikki.

Bloom & Wild

The special edition bunches of flowers have a indulgent mix of deep Autumn hues to celebrate the new season. Pick from the vibrant ‘Autumn Mornings’, the brilliantly British ‘Woodland Walk’ or the opulent and regal hand-tied ‘Red Skies’ bouquet.

The bunches start at £38 and can be paired in the post with other special gifts such as chocolates or a birthday biscuit.

More information on the Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart x Bloom & Wild here.

This is a sponsored blog post in collaboration with Bloom & Wild.