I drank at the best bar in the world, and I was surprised by one thing
A bar on London's south bank has been named the best in the world.
The World's 50 Best Bars, now in its 10th year, is based on the opinions of more than 500 drinks experts who cast seven votes each.
For 2018, the experts named Dandelyan, the bar of the Mondrian Hotel in London, as the best bar in the world.
The bar was created by award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, or "Mr. Lyan," the creator of the "Lyan" family of bars that includes Superlyan, Cub, and the now-closed White Lyan.
Dandelyan, his oldest bar, is inspired by "the great botanists, fruit hunters, and bon vivants who brought back new tastes from foreign lands."
Located in Sea Containers house right on the River Thames, it offers some pretty stunning views - and its interiors are just as impressive.
However, there was one main thing that surprised me about the best bar in the world when I went to visit.
Dandelyan, located in the Mondrian Hotel on London's South Bank, was named the best bar in the world for 2018. Situated right on the River Thames, it boasts some pretty stunning views. Here's what it looks like when it's empty (and shot with a professional camera)...
...And here's what it looked like when I visited on a Friday night. I was taken aback by the bar's location, which sits right on the river path, meaning plenty of tourists and pedestrians walk by and look right in at you (or even come inside).
The stylish interiors are Art-Deco in vibe, with homage to the Sea Containers building the bar and hotel sits in — the space, from British designer Tom Dixon, is partly inspired with references to "the luxurious cruise liners of generations past," and is filled with luxe purples, pinks, greens, and golds.
Having seen the photos, I didn't expect Dandelyan to be so casual. Having come in straight off the sidewalk, coats were strewn on chairs and the vibe was loud and buzzing, and there certainly was no apparent dress code, giving it a nice kick-your-feet-up vibe. This is truly the sort of place where anyone is welcome (so long as you can foot the bill).
Without a booking, I even managed to get seats at the bar for two — on a Friday night! I couldn't believe my luck.
The bar is pretty dimly lit at night, so the colours of the place are less obvious.
The latest cocktail menu is called "Modern Life of Plants, and apparently "explores industrialisation and large-scale food systems." It's divided into three sections: Mint, Grape, and Hops, the three core ingredients.
The cocktail menu itself is pretty complicated, but this handy chart at the back breaks it down for you, making suggestions based on the time of day it is. Along with a longer description, each cocktail on the menu is also summarised in an easy-to-understand sentence, like "aromatic, boozy, rich."
Here are all of the cocktails available on the "Modern Life of Plants" menu, which will be replaced by a new concept in 2019.
You can also order the classics and wines or beers from another menu, of course. Beers start at £5.50 (just over R63), while there are wines by the glass from £8 (R144).
A recommendation from the friendly, easygoing bar staff, I opted for the BC3 Negroni, £13.50 (R250), made with Bombay Sapphire, Dandelyan pollen Vermouth, propolis, Ceylon Arrack, Campari, and aged honey. It was a tasty, sweeter version of the classic.
On the menu, the drink paid homage to bees, who it called "history's explorers."
It was described as a "bittersweet, boozy sipper."
Unsurprisingly, plenty of brands are keen to work with Dandelyan, and the bartenders are up for creating something to suit your taste. When we asked ours to create something using Patrón and Fever-Tree's new Citrus Tonic, he threw together Citrus Tonic, Patrón Silver, aromatised honey wine, seaweed tincture, and red amaranth. Impressive.
There's food on the menu, too, from ceviche tacos (£15 or R270) and Sea Containers fries with lobster oil and grated caviar (£8... around R144)...
The colourful afternoon tea, or "Wyld Tea," is also very popular, starting at £38 (or just shy of R700).
It comes complete with scones and savouries featuring the likes of "curaçao smoked duck" and "parmesan croute lobster and crab."
All in all, the prices and the drinks are comparable to other high-end cocktail bars that put research into their menus and effort into their environment — but the biggest surprise was how relaxed Dandelyan was. Not only was I able to get a table without a booking, but people truly seemed comfortable in whatever they were wearing, and unafraid of asking questions about the menu or being honest about not knowing what to order. Considering it's been pegged as the best bar in the world, this is a spot that's completely unpretentious — which is perhaps what makes it so popular.
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