Over the past six years since the opening of his first bar, White Lyan, Ryan Chetiyawardana has taken over the London cocktail scene, launching award-winning concept after award-winning concept and growing a loyal following of drinkers and staff alike. With the Lyan brand on the cusp of commanding a prolific empire, we visit Ryan’s first venue outside of London, Super Lyan Amsterdam.
Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan is considered by many to be the best bartender in the world. He’s certainly no stranger to us here at Sated, having won our hearts on many occasions with his scientific (and frankly delicious) approach to mixology. By challenging conventions and reinventing the cocktail landscape, Ryan has become one of the most recognised figures in the world of bartending. This claim has been backed up by winning a litany of awards including ‘World’s Best Cocktail Bar’ for Dandelyan, while being supported by an also award-winning team. It seems that Mr Lyan and his team have done it all. So what’s the next logical step? World domination…or international expansion at least. Ever unafraid to make bold steps forward, Ryan has made the decision to move his Hoxton bar Super Lyan to Amsterdam. In essence, this is the first test to see if the Lyan brand can work outside of London with the second being the opening of a new location in Washington DC this November.
Set within a historic 17th Century Dutch House in the heart of Amsterdam, about a ten-minute walk from Centraal station, Super Lyan is split into two parts. The main bar, which is accessible to the street at night-time, stands alongside a smaller garden area, which is designed to be a more chilled daytime spot. The garden serves vegan doughnuts, breakfast cocktails and milkshakes with or without alcohol spikes.
As we walk in, the eye is drawn to the large neon writing above the bar, which bathes it in a warm pink light. You’d think this would be overbearing but this is not the case, Neon is used sparingly and to great effect, creating a sense of fun and playfulness which serves as a nice contrast to the opulent hotel beside it. This sense of play also adds to the welcoming nature of the bar. The designer Jacu Strauss’ (Creative Director of LORE Group) intention to harness a sense of “50’s optimism” is evident and the main bar’s throwback design really hits that home without being garish. Super Lyan considers itself a neighbourhood bar; they want to bring in a mix of tourist and locals as well as attracting the guests of the hotel. The method to this, in their words, is “to find that balance between being sophisticated and easy-going”. If you spend any time in this bar you’ll find that this is exactly the case. The staff and bartenders are extremely warm and helpful. The passion each member of the team has for what they do is palpable and this leads to an incredibly enjoyable experience.
The concept of the drinks menu seeks to continue that same sense of fun that the design alludes to. The menu is broken down into their original cocktails (both alcoholic and non); twists on established cocktail bar classics; shots (or slams) and a finely curated wine and beer list. Super Lyan also offers something brand new to Amsterdam’s cocktail scene, as this is the first bar in the capital to have cocktails on tap. One of these is the Panacea with Johnnie Walker Black. The smokiness of the whisky is emphasised with sage and lavender while the lemon gives it a gorgeous zing that makes it taste light and refreshing. The draught element of this cocktail provides a deliciously smooth head that compliments the balance of smoky and sweet.
Another one of their ‘Lyan Serves’ is the Pearl Diver – a Lyan take on a Bacardi Rum Tiki cocktail. This is one of the boozier cocktails taste-wise as the rum initially takes dominance on the palate but this is smoothed out with cacao butter honey, a flavour that really pulls the whole drink together. Another of their originals is a non-alcoholic cocktail, the Dandelyan Sour – an elegant shout out to their former award-winning London location (now transformed into an equally outstanding cocktail bar, Lyanness). This botanical and earthy drink distinguishes itself with its delicate balance of green pea and sour apple with both flavours complementing each other perfectly.
While Super Lyan’s original drinks are delicious in its own right, it’s the twist on classics that really sets this bar out from the rest. Namely the Moscow Mule, which has a remarkable peach-habanero kick that, combined with ginger ale and syrup, leaves a lasting and very pleasant glow after drinking. Many Moscow Mules tend to leave a bitter ginger aftertaste but the use of ale and syrup eradicates this completely. The Red Rum is an intense and deep burst of sweet fruit flavour blended with Banks rum and sloe gin. The “double lemon” flavour is created by combining both the lemon’s juice and the oil extracted from the zest, creating an explosion of flavours. The sharpness you would expect from such a combination is soothed with smooth vanilla. The Old Fashioned has a strong citrus aroma before hitting with the deep nutty flavours of the rye and raw sugar. As mentioned by the bartenders, the flavours of this Old Fashioned develop as you continue to drink it and you are treated to an undertone of beeswax. The subtle twists of flavour in all of these drinks make them truly spectacular.
However, it’s not only the drinks that stand out at Super Lyan; the bar food is on-point too. The salmon tartare comes served with thin slices of toast and a small side salad., Light, fresh and enjoyable but once again it was the subtle change on expected flavours that ultimately made it steal the show. The Beef Bitterballen were absolutely melt-in-the-mouth delicious and the beer mustard was a delightful accompaniment.
Super Lyan obviously has a lot to live up to considering the history of the Lyan brand and for their first venture out of London, it knocks it absolutely out of the park. Despite sharing the name with its Hoxton predecessor, it manages to stand out on its own. What really makes the bar special is its sense of reinvention with the twist on classic cocktails being the stand-out of an all-round strong menu. This combined with the passionate and friendly staff make the venue a must-visit. Whether you’re a tourist, local, cocktail bar veteran or first timer there’s a sense that everyone is welcome and the focus is on the purest of concepts, Fun.
Super Lyan, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 3, 1012 RC Amsterdam
Words by Kieran Faulkner
Portrait Orientation Images by Grace Lilley