We recently joined forces with Dandelyan – the critically acclaimed bar at Mondrian London on the South Bank – to serve a collection of travel inspired, botanical cocktails at our flagship Heathrow Clubhouse. Taking over our mezzanine bar, the Dandelyan team enjoyed a week’s residency at the Clubhouse, with award winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, a.k.a “Mr Lyan”, creating a menu of signature cocktails exclusively for Virgin Atlantic passengers.
It’s the latest in a series of partnerships with some of the best cocktail bars in the world, aimed at bringing the finest mixology talent to our Clubhouse. In addition to Dandelyan, we’ve been inspired by takeovers from Quinary in Hong Kong, L.A’s Hinoki & The Bird, and New York City’s Employees Only, with the final pop-up from Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco taking place this week. Each bar has transformed the space to reflect their home city, culture and overall vibe, and created a custom cocktail menu served by their own staff – giving passengers a taste of our worldwide destinations before they’ve even taken off.
An amazing learning curve
Named the best place to drink in Britain in the 2015 Guardian Observer Food Awards, Dandelyan successfully transported their groundbreaking mixology techniques across the capital to our Heathrow Clubhouse this month. Designed to lead passengers on a journey of discovery, the botanically inspired menu included a range of exotic and unusual ingredients, offering Virgin Atlantic customers a tantalising flavour of the spectacular Tom Dixon-designed bar. But how did the pop-up experience compare to the real thing? We caught up with Mr Lyan to find out more about Dandelyan’s approach to the residency, and learned how working in the Clubhouse was an opportunity to try something entirely different.
“Our time in the Clubhouse was an amazing learning curve; having to work around the understandable safety restrictions, and to plan how to execute what we needed in a space that wasn’t our own,” he said. “The drinks we do at Dandelyan are very… involved, so it was amazing to try and adapt this into a space we weren’t used to. The guests who come to Dandelyan are excited by trying something new, and the outlook of the Virgin guests in the Clubhouse was similar. Although they weren’t coming specifically to the Clubhouse to experience our drinks, they were keen to try something interesting, unusual and delicious. So it was a balance between challenges and a chance to cater to a different space and crowd.”
With such a litany of global influences and flavour combinations to draw upon, another challenge was creating an edited list of cocktails which would distill the overall essence of Dandelyan. “As a short list of five drinks, we employed the same attempt to cover a range of styles, tastes and moods as we would a standard cocktail menu,” Mr Lyan continued. “We wanted to make sure we could accommodate as many different people as possible, whilst still offering something new and exciting as we would in the bar. We did have to account for what would be feasible outside our standard operating space though – fermentation or mummification for example (which do feature in the bar!) are slightly harder to take to a new space!”
Regardless, our customers appeared to be more than thrilled with the results, with many passing comment on their favourites throughout the week. “It seemed to change each day – which is reflective of the space and of a balanced menu. Overall I think our ‘Natural Born Gatherer’ was the winner, and it makes sense as it’s a lighter aperitif, so ideal before some amazing food in the Clubhouse and before a long flight,” Mr Lyan said. “As the various flights came in, across different times of the day, we seemed to get a different uptake on the list of drinks. Thankfully, the reception in general was exceptional and we had several guests stay with us for a few hours, chatting away and enjoying the drinks. We even had a comment that a visitor from the US called us (in the Clubhouse) ‘the best bar in London’ !”
If you’re joining us in the Clubhouse this week, don’t forget to visit Bourbon & Branch on the mezzanine level bar, and keep an eye out for further Clubhouse collaborations in the future.