Shoreditch's Apothecary revives a Japanese pastime in east London
- Credit: Brian Dandridge
Shoreditch has a growing reputation for fashionable and quirky places to eat and drink but diners will be hard pressed to find anywhere as unique and classy as Charlotte Road’s newest venue this side of Tokyo.
Apothecary might come as a surprise for those whose only experience of Japanese dining comes from the stressed conveyor belts of YO! Sushi. Customers are met with the natural woods and mood lighting of a bar, and encouraged to order one of a wide selection of cocktails, beers, or sakes before taking time to study the menu.
There is an emphasis on the venue not being a restaurant, but an ‘Izakaya’, a Japanese bar that serves freshly prepared ‘drinking food’. Izakaya translates as ‘stay, drink place’. An all you can eat buffet, this is not. Diners are served intricately prepared dishes on small plates with no minimum or maximum amount of orders necessary. In keeping with the relaxed vibe, the staff (all genial and approachable) serve orders as and when chefs are ready, and there is no formal order. On Friday and Saturday nights there is a live DJ, with the jazz-influenced Rebecca Vasmant behind the decks on the night of our visit.
We are served lotus root crisps and salmon avocado rolls, the latter from the sushi menu. It is the introduction to what becomes a running theme, of minimal ingredients providing subtle but exquisite flavours. These are followed by chicken meatball skewers which my friend enjoyed, as I, a pescatarian, opted for a charred asparagus skewer. Many of the dishes are built around vegetables, with a large range of vegetarian and vegan options. The grilled cauliflower with black sesame was a favourite, as was the miso glazed aubergine. Dishes don’t have to be complimented with sides, but the furikake rice and picked vegetables we sampled are worth a try. A nice aspect of the minimalist cuisine is that you will not leave feeling stuffed and regretful, but that said, I would recommend leaving room for the yuzu baked cheesecake.
Opening in the building that was most recently Merchants Tavern, the Izakaya takes its name from what was once a Victorian apothecary shop and warehouse. Today Apothecary stands for something different, but with ambitions and the potential to revive a popular Japanese pastime in east London.
For more information and bookings, visit www.apothecaryeast.co.uk