Meet William Meredith
HEAD BARTENDER OF ONE OF LONDON’S LEADING ESTABLISHMENTS, LYANESS, WILLIAM MEREDITH, REVEALS HOW HE FELL IN LOVE WITH THE INDUSTRY WHILE STUDYING AT UNIVERSITY AND HASN’T LOOKED BACK.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
I’ll be honest. I am a classic example of someone who found themselves a little out of pocket while at university. I turned to nightclubs for some extra cash, and quickly found that the world of hospitality extended way beyond what I was currently doing. After I graduated, I moved to my first cocktail bar and instantly fell in love with it. I found myself working with some people who knew so much more than me and were better at this job than I was in every conceivable way. I guess that seeing the person above me has always driven me to push harder and pass them, and in this case it was no different.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BARTENDING, AND WHERE HAVE YOU PREVIOUSLY WORKED BEFORE LYANESS?
I have been bartending for the best part of seven years, three and a half with the Lyan company with Dandelyan and now Lyaness. Before that, I worked in a couple of places in Manchester that included a fun, high volume cocktail bar called Elixir, which was a great venue. We had so much free reign to experiment and piss about, providing we created consumer-friendly products in the most efficient manner possible.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION AT LYANESS?
I am the current head bartender. That mostly entails taking the lead on creative projects within the bar, as well as trying my absolute best to guide an exceptionally talented team along the way. I also take a leading role on service and passing on the Lyaness culture on to our guests.
WHAT IGNITES YOUR PASSION, OR MOTIVATES YOU WITHIN THIS ROLE?
Like I mentioned before, I always look at the people ahead of me in this industry. I have always been a perennial black sheep/underdog and proving people wrong is what drives me forward. I also don’t like being told ‘no’ so that always lights a fire in my belly. A number of things definitely motivates me. We work in hospitality, and therefore our guests are simply the most crucial part. No one knew this better than my first head bartender Aidan Bowie, who was just the absolute best at this. He was simply the best at blowing peoples minds with his warmth and hospitality. Seeing those experiences still motivates me to this day.
IS THERE SOMEONE IN THE INDUSTRY THAT INSPIRES YOU, WHO IS IT, AND WHY?
The two founders of the Lyan company, Iain and Ryan, are huge inspirations to me. Their ability to question everything in this industry is phenomenal, and I can learn something new from them both every single day. We’ve also had amazing head bartenders previously who have been amazing in their own ways, and if I have taken just a bit from each of them, then I would consider myself lucky. There’s so many others within the company and beyond that inspire me, and thanks to that I’ve no desire to take my foot off the gas.
KNOWING YOUR COCKTAIL LIST IS A FLAVOUR MASTERPIECE REQUIRING MONTHS OF DEVELOPMENT AND BEHIND THE SCENES CONCEPTUALISING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE CREATION TO DATE?
That’s a hard question! We’ve been so lucky to collaborate with a handful of incredible people in the short time since we’ve opened. Having said that, I would say my favourite ingredient at the moment is our Tea-mooth. One of those people we collaborated with was Henrietta from The Rare Tea Company, who worked with Ryan to design a signature blend of teas for us. We followed the story that comes with tea, learning about all the care and love that goes into creating the diversity we see. We quickly discovered that there is a similar lineage in vermouth. People used to make vermouth as a massive labour of love, preserving, spicing, and flavouring their wines and sometimes putting themselves at risk to find rare or hard to access ingredients. We decided to marry these two schools of thought and create a vermouth made from this tea blend. We use the component teas in the blend to make a range of spiced tinctures, as well as fermenting the base tea. All in all we create about ten components that are blended together to make the Tea-mooth.
WHAT DAILY CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE IN YOUR ROLE?
No job is without its difficulties, and this is no different. I think the most challenging aspect of the role is that I have to always be switched on, both to the guests and the team. There’s so many moving parts to manage and not let-up. Spoiling guests and hosting has been something that I have always loved, but I have to be aware that the same love needs to go into the team, and therefore I must always be leading through work. I guess it can be mentally taxing at times, but I enjoy the challenge of supporting 25 others, and I am always looking to improve how I do it.
WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS ABOUT THE INDUSTRY AT PRESENT?
There’s many amazing things about this industry, but also there are some big holes. I think there is a huge lack of formal education out there for people. People could work in this industry for ten years and have nothing formal to show for it. There needs to be more resources for young, enthusiastic people to grow, otherwise they will only learn from copying. I have seen plenty in this industry to tell me that there’s a bunch of creative people, but I find that a lot of the time people follow a formula that already exists, put their own spin on it and claim it’s their idea. I think we have so much more to offer and it all starts from the confidence created through formal, structured education.
YOU’VE BEEN ON TOUR PREVIOUSLY WITH DANDELYAN, AND NOW YOU’RE RETURNING WITH LYANESS WHAT WILL BE UNIQUELY DIFFERENT THIS TIME AND WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT GETTING BACK TO AUSTRALIA?
I had such a blast last time I was in Australia! Everybody was so unbelievably friendly and warm, and there were so many young operator/owners who were really inspiring. I am looking forward to catching up with and meeting so many more new people this time around. This time around, we are looking to increase our reach, hitting two more states. We are also going way more immersive in our sessions, with a whole trade day planned in the cities we visit that includes both seminars and workshops, designed to help show the Australian bar industry how Lyaness works and how we can display an alternative view to hospitality.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY WITHIN LYANESS?
We have a bunch of exciting stuff in the pipeline. It’s hard to tell you anything just now, as we like to keep things to ourselves while they are in the pipe. What I can tell you is that we are on for an exciting year, and most of what we are doing is focussed around collaboration. One thing I have learned in the last 18 months is that we have so many unbelievable and talented people on our doorstep, and most of them love the idea of working with new industries.
WHAT’S BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
It’s hard to say really. I would have to say that overseeing the opening and subsequent first year of Lyaness has been incredibly rewarding. It’s been a tough old year but having challenges like this is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Therefore I would have to say that closing Dandelyan and opening Lyaness would have to be a career highlight.
IF YOU WEREN’T IN THE INDUSTRY WHAT CAREER JOURNEY DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE TAKEN?
That’s hard to say, because I have never known what to do in my career. I only went to university because my parents didn’t give me much choice! In hindsight, I am glad they did because I am a big believer in education (regardless of how pointless it may be). I didn’t really attend much, but I graduated with a degree in Philosophy. I have always wanted to write, so I guess I may have tried my hand in journalism or something like that. I obviously have plans, but I change my mind as often as the weather, so it’s not something I spend too much time thinking about.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR WILL MEREDITH?
Who knows, I am enjoying life in London and the Lyan company at the moment. I definitely want to be my own boss and have my own business in the future; however, I have no idea what form that will take. In the short term, I am here to give 100% to Lyaness and help tell our story to as many people as possible whilst pushing myself and the team both operationally and creatively.