I'm supping on sperm whale secretion, knocking back glasses of mineral garnished wonder water and staring at the face of a cocktail chocka fridge. But i'm not at some kind of Charles Darwin inspired dinner dabble, a Heston hootenanny or bounding down the aisles in Curry's (RIP); I'm in Hoxton at White Lyan, and tasting a menu that some of London's most unique minds have been behind the scenes devising.
Keep your menu simple, and the rest will follow. While scale measured drinks and behind the scenes mechanics may famously make up the back bone of this cocktail venture from Iain Griffiths and Ryan Chetiyawardana, front end frolics remain firmly minimalistic. While I was propped up by a mirrored main bar, dashed with brickwork and industrial specks, the rest of the venue remains shrouded in a broody black cloak with jetted chesterfield boothing and slick furniture. Venture downstairs and rumours of DJ dabbles all ring true, but let's be honest, I was firmly propped and keeping a firm position by the bar, because that's where the drinks are silly.
Is it the method in their madness, or the madness in their method? White Lyan refuse to tend to perishables, conjuring up cocktails in your glass from a mere decanter in a fridge. Banning branding, ill of ice, free from fruit and letting cocktails age in the air once poured, bartender-cum-magician Robin Honhold explains that it takes almost three weeks to conjure up any one batch of cocktails, and I was about to find out why.
My pick of drinks was influenced by the men behind the bar, but who can say that they haven't been swayed by pearly whites, or simply trusting of an expert's opinion? Kicking off with 'Ribs', a purposely nostalgic reminder of BBQ boozing, this £9 nuzzler was a mix of Mr Lyan Bourbon, chipotle (adding that smoky edge), mint tea and rosewood, making for a somewhat meaty swirl. Chasing nostalgia with a White Lyan favourite, the Moby Dick Sazerac (£9) followed. And so did sperm whales. Bustling with ambergris, that comes extracted from the bile of sperm whales, an absinthe rinse and Mr Lyan Rye, this scale measured must-try is a famous flavour that sticks and evolves as the drink gets a chance to breathe. Noting that these picks were all hard hitters, 'Purple Paint' sealed the final White Lyan deal as blackcurrant paint was brushed about the glass, adding to the sticky and slightly sharp aronia and Mr Lyan Akvavit notes that continued to prove unique liquid logic that is distilled, manipulated and expertly managed.
Tended to more than a nipper on their first day at school, Ryan Chetiyawardana and Robin Honhold are absolute drinking dimes a dozen. Not only are they patient with a cackle, they're eager to tend, and often pretty sharing with a shot of tequila. With cocktail creation reserved to a mere 10 second pouring here, these guys were able to absolutely distill my own notions of mixology and cocktail mastery with their own unique tales of liquid recreation. From explaining each process to sharing insider knowledge, I can't recommend their drink nuzzling noggins enough. Get a seat by the bar, they'll throw in a free smile if you're willing to do the same.
As for venue the itself, I was amidst a gentle buzz at only 6:30, with couples propped, groups nattering and nice looking folk having a foray into flavour, all making for a relaxed space to seriously sup. But what with 80 groups on their books that night alone, it was pretty clear that White Lyan becomes even more of a playground after my early bedtime hankerings.
Some people see this level of scientific supping as a 'snooty, just for the sake of it' affair, but that's a boozy blissful ignorance if I have anything to say about. Nothing at White Lyan is done just because they can, even though they can, or just because they want to, there's a method in their mastery and it's working. At a level of distilling divinity and conjuring up cocktails that really play on the applied science that they propose, leave your tales of muddled Mojitos at the door and include yourself. You may learn something, and learning is cool.