Brummell recommends: Apothecary

A Japan-inspired izakaya adding the perfect mix of small plates and interesting drinks to the excellent and long list of food establishments in Shoreditch

Food and Drink 14 Jul 2022

Apothecary East

Apothecary East serves up perfect sharing plates

The background

Patrons might recognise the decorative doorway and large windowpanes of this historic Shoreditch building as the old site of the Merchants Tavern. Opened last year by Rohit Chugh (Roti Chai, Chai Ki) and Dominic Lake (Spiritland), with Jude Sam (Villandry) as head chef, the name ‘Apothecary’ gives a nod to the heritage of the building, which once housed a warehouse and, yes, an apothecary. But with the bottles and medicines long gone, the building now channels the energy of Tokyo’s buzzing izakayas, paired with an old East London charm.

The neon-lit bar at Apothecary
The neon-lit bar at Apothecary

The space

The first thing you notice when stepping inside Apothecary is the scene-stealing, neon-lit bar. Izakayas are a place to unwind over good drinks, bar snacks and small plates, and it’s no surprise the bar commands a focus. Diners can pull up a chair right here, or head into the dining room, which has been sectioned off from the revelry up front – that often includes a DJ spinning tracks – with Japan-inspired slatted wood screens. Natural light from a large glass section of ceiling falls on exposed brick walls and indoor foliage, assisted by large gleaming Tom Dixon pendant lighting. At the back of the room is an open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs at work at the robata grill from your racing green leather banquette booth. The restaurant accommodates over 130 covers seated at wooden tables, booths or even a large dining table that’s perfect for groups.

The menu

Apothecary’s menu is a good balance of small plates and more substantial dishes made for sharing, tapas-style, and arriving on the table as they are ready. The lotus root crisps make a great, crunchy snack for the table while you peruse the extensive list of cocktails, Japanese beers, wines, spirits and sakes – the accompanying dipping sauce has a satisfying kick. There are some interesting vegetarian and vegan options, and the miso-glazed aubergine was a strong contender for our most-enjoyed dish. Gloriously sticky and sweet, and topped with crispy onions, it comes diced rather than presented in the skin, so easy for sharing. The grilled cauliflower with black sesame is simple but surprisingly full of flavour. The vegetable is truly roasted, giving it the perfect texture for achieving a coating of the sesame sauce it sits in. 

Apothecary serves a range of delicious sushi and Japanese-influenced dishes
Apothecary serves a range of delicious sushi and Japanese-influenced dishes

There is a decent list of sushi options. Spicy tuna dragon rolls arrive beautifully presented, using perfectly cooked sticky but soft sushi rice and well-battered prawn tempura that complements a layer of fatty tuna with its crispiness. The thin slices of beef tataki with a spicy sesame dressing from the “raw” section are melt-in-your mouth delicious. Wash this all down with a refreshing Apothecary highball (peach, elderflower, citrus stock, soda, Toki Japanese whisky), a light and summery long drink, or a TDHS (Havana Club 3, Havana Club 7, Punt e Mes vermouth, apple and fennel syrup, lemon, ginger ale) for something with more punch. A visit to an izakaya calls for skewers from the robata grill – Apothecary does a “house selection” of sweet potato, pork belly and chicken, all great washed down with a cold Kirin Ichiban lager. The flavours of Japan continue through to the dessert menu, and the yuzu baked cheesecake is a sweet and delicious finish, while the house ice-cream comes in generously sized single scoops– try the sesame chestnut or matcha apple for something unexpected but memorable.

The price

Dinner, dessert and drinks for two, £100

The verdict

Apothecary is a great choice for an intimate dinner for two, or a larger gathering with friends – whether to start off your evening with the excellent drinks list and good ambiance or for catching up while you dip in and out of different dishes dotted around the table.

Apothecary, 36 Charlotte Road, EC2A 3PG;