Dandelyan Bar, Mondrian Hotel

Some of London’s most highly regarded cocktail bars are found in the city’s luxury hotels, so I should not be surprised to hear that creative mixologist mastermind, Ryan Chetiyawardana (known as Mr Lyan) would be opening his second bar within a hotel. Known for pushing the boundaries of bartending, Ryan has previously worked behind the counter of some of the most pioneering cocktail joints; he opened his first bar (White Lyan) in Hoxton earlier this year, creating concoctions using no ice or fresh ingredients.

Dandelyan, set in the lavish new Mondrian Hotel on the river has smart hotel staff serving and pouring and sophisticated guests sitting on the luxury bar stools – the atmosphere is completely the opposite of the East London laid-back vibe I experienced in Hoxton. Eager to try Mr Lyan’s newest venture, a group of us swished in on a Monday evening ready to sample a selection of the top drinks, needless to say we had high expectations.

Here, ice and citrus essentials are allowed, but Mr Lyan still ensures the concept and recipes are adventurous and original. The beautifully designed floral cocktail menu splits the drinks into flavour groups: cereal, vegetal, mineral and floral. On the back page a diagram illustrates the main tastes of each drink and whether it is more suitable for daytime or nighttime drinking. We chose six to sip and share, along with a range of tasty bar snacks.

My favourites included the ‘Puffed Grains & Chocolate’ a long Scotch-based drink with a nutty sweet taste and the signature ‘Dandelyan Sour’ which is very easy to drink served in a pretty coupette glass: a botanical taste with a mix of gin, citrus flavours and aromatic garden bitters. For something very light and refreshing the popular ‘Southbank’ is a good bet, an elegant rum-based drink with a nice balance of grapefruit and honey. I also loved the ‘Monroe’, a strong vodka cocktail with lemon, wheat and passionfruit.

Despite the complex and intricate design of these cocktails, there is a drink to suit everyone, whether you are a cocktail fan or not. Mr Lyan is a mixologist magician and this new bar is sure to make Mondrian Hotel a drinking destination.

More information on Dandelyan Bar here.

LAB cocktail bar, Soho

The London Academy of Bartenders (LAB) don’t make things easy for themselves, with a list of 100 drinks to master there is plenty of room for error, and yet the glasses we tried were immaculately executed and intriguingly tasty.

This little Soho cocktail den is found in the shadows of Old Compton Street, illuminated only by the neon glow of the nearby peep shows. Boasting a wealth of experience and a team of the very best mixologists, the fluid creations here are sometimes classic and sometimes experimental.

Seated near the bar we could see all the action as coloured bottles were swiped from the shelves and employed methodically in different glasses, ready for each customer. The most memorable drink from the evening was the Burnt Breakfast Martini, a genius concoction from the ‘Clever Stuff’ section of the menu. An elegant combination of Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon, orange marmalade and pink grapefruit, shaken with a splash of Aperol and egg white and given the final touch with a flamed vanilla brûlée top. It was a creative and pretty drink – an interesting contrast of tangy fruity martini with a delicious creamy top to soften the taste.

Keen to display the wackier skills he possessed, the barman mixed up a Leftfield for us. A quirky cocktail with Sipsmith Gin stirred with elderflower cordial, a splash of dry vermouth and dark balsamic vinegar then dressed with pickled onions. This was a slightly odd assortment of flavours, strong and aromatic with a kick from the vinegar and onions, which we couldn’t quite stomach.

LAB is an asset to the Soho bar scene… just as fun and fabulous as the surrounding camp hang-outs but with an array of expertly mixed cocktails to match.

The award-winning LAB team also offer cocktail classes for wannabe connoisseurs. Learn from the best of the industry how to make a variety of drinks using styles and methods from classic to contemporary.

More information here.


69 Colbrooke Row, Islington

The Islington bar with no name has gained quite a reputation with its deliciously drinkable cocktails and laid back speakeasy vibe. The bar was opened in 2009 by Tony Conigliaro (Isola, Roka and Shochu Lounge) and Camille Hobby-Limon (Charles Lamb pub). Now known by its address, 69 Colbrooke Row’s following is steadily growing, a hot spot for cocktails in North-East London.

I’m relieved to have discovered this bar as I’ve often wandered along Upper Street in search of a decent drink and not been totally satisfied with the choice, until now that is. I may be a 69 Colbrooke regular from now on!

The bar is hip yet retro with Martini signs on the entrance and a sophisticated black and red theme inside. I loved the staff outfits – stylish jackets and shirts that looked slightly Charlie Chaplin-esque. When we went along on a warm Sunday afternoon, the windows were open and the place was empty, we smugly had the bar and the bar staff all to ourselves. The menu is short but sublime, not wasting any space with dud drinks instead preferring to only offer top notch cocktails carefully created and of the highest quality.

We thoroughly enjoyed all the concoctions we tried, four very particular drinks each with its own taste and curious twist. Talking to the waitress, we chose to sample the favourites on the list to see exactly why they had become so popular.

Barbershop Fizz – Pine infused Beefeater Gin, Birch syrup, Patchouli infused Mint, Lime juice, topped with Soda.

This was perhaps the star of the night, a stunningly simple long pale green drink garnished with a curl of lime zest, it looks a million dollars.  The subtle pine infused gin has a slightly medicinal taste and gives a warm woody tang balanced with the refreshing mint and sharp citrus lime; diluted with soda water, it is a cooling and stimulating cocktail. Very drinkable and perfect for the warmer months, but totally distinctive.

Spitfire – 69 House Cognac, Peach Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Sugar, White Wine.

This is a grown up but girly cocktail, shaken fiercely with egg white it has a creamy smooth texture and fluffy top. Despite the strong sweet alcohol, the peach, lemon and wine makes this drink dainty and delightful, I could have happily drunk three in a row.

Vinus Lupus – Clover Honey, Chamomile, Verjus, Mastic and Sauvignon Blanc.

Served in a wine glass with ice cubes, this isn’t your typical cocktail. It is a low key and subtle drink for those wishing to try an exciting variation on white wine. The delicate honey sweet undertones make the drink comforting and satisfying. We enjoyed this drink but found it not to be as memorable as the others, perhaps a good choice for less enthusiastic cocktail drinkers.

Rhubarb Gimlet – Homemade Rhubarb Cordial stirred with Beefeater Gin and a Grapefruit twist.

A miniature glass holds a lethal but sensationally pretty pale pink liquid that warms your throat and soothes your soul. Usually I am repelled by bitter fruit flavours but this mixture works miraculously well, the sweet caramelly taste from the rhubarb balancing the flavours beautifully. Strong but divine.

The bar operate a thankfully easy pricing system with all cocktails costing £9 each, reasonable considering the care and expertise of preparation.

69 Colbrooke serves up seriously good cocktails in a gorgeous intimate boudoir. Old fashioned and discreet, it is a welcome oasis away from islington’s busy Upper Street.

Visit the 69 Colbrooke website here for more information.