Dandelyan’s Ryan Chetiyawardana — aka Mr Lyan — is opening a flagship restaurant in London. Cub will open on the ground floor of White Lyan’s former site on Hoxton Street, with Super Lyan continuing to operate below. Chetiyawardna is collaborating on the project with with Doug McMaster of SILO, Brighton and Dr Arielle Johnson, former resident scientist at Noma and Head of Research for MAD Symposium. The 35-cover restaurant is scheduled to open on 7 September.
Cub will blur the boundaries between food and drink, both in its offering and design. Tables and bartops will be made from recycled yoghurt pots, as at SILO. Eschewing the staid divide between bar and kitchen, one long pass will facilitate both, looking out on to raised booths designed to mimic the relationship between stage and audience at the theatre — all designed by Juliet Walmsley of the Lyan pride. “Courses” will be just as fluid: sometimes food, sometimes drink, sometimes both, all at once. Serves promise ‘Japanese knotweed, raw sheep’s milk, ramson’, ‘Burnt peach, capsaicin, cognac, coffee’, and the ‘Sea buckthorn, Douglas Fir, burnt butter’ trifecta that has garnered a cult following at SILO.
Cub lies at a curious intersection of culinary sustainability — while Chetiyawardana and McMaster share a commitment to questioning what Chetiyawardana calls “the seemingly immovable edifices” of current food systems, their particular approaches are divergent. SILO’s adoption of a pre-industrial approach does more than reuse; in choosing to upcycle and intercept, energy otherwise spent on the process of recycling is saved. The Lyan group shares this closed loop approach, but rejects the viability of certain approaches: foraging, seasonality, locality. Chetiyawardana told Eater London:
"The explosion of [Dan Barber’s] wastED et al. — whilst still noble, and at least better than doing nothing — reinforces the disconnect we have with our food. We're taught as kids that recycling and reuse are better than nothing, but the key is in the fundamental changes — we need to reduce, and crucially, re-assess. There's an issue that we see food and drink as cheap and throw away... We have to stop fragmenting planet-to-farmer-to-producer-to-consumer. It's not the way the world works, so the artificial barriers we put up need to be challenged.”
If the Chetiyawardana and McMaster’s approaches diverge, it’s Dr Johnson’s work that appears to bridge the gap. Growing ingredients on the site of a high-end restaurant, as she oversaw at Noma, is not just another loop to close; it’s a rejection of assumptions about food systems: rural farming, stratified supply chains and the association of culinary luxury with primacy (only the most expensive ingredients make the best food etc.) In a first-look at the Mr Lyan Sustainability document, the rejection of this luxe philosophy sits right at the top:
“Waste reduction was at the heart of the conception of the company. There was an objective to challenge the status quo, and one of the ideas that permeated throughout the food and drink industry was that luxury needed to be opulent. It needed to elevate the exotic, and it needed to only focus on the finest cuts.”
This manifesto is important for the endurance it , and Cub’s permanence is testament to it. A less considered luxury of sustainability is its presentation — the chassis of the pop-up and takeover undercut sustainability as a mission and implicitly acknowledges its inability to sustain itself — in so doing, they write themselves into the systems they seek to challenge.
Contrast this with Cub’s mission:
"The systems we accept and perpetuate are not the only option, and that we can still pursue excellence and deliciousness in a way that is not destructive."