Apothecary: Merchants Tavern site reborn as Japanese-style izakaya

·2-min read
<p>Tuck in: while the point of izakayas is drinking, small plates will be available at the Old Street opening</p> (Goya Comms Photography)

Tuck in: while the point of izakayas is drinking, small plates will be available at the Old Street opening

(Goya Comms Photography)

The site of Shoreditch’s popular Merchants Tavern, which closed permanently towards the end of last year, is to open next month as a Japanese-style izakaya called Apothecary.

Izakayas – which can loosely be thought of as an equivalent to a food-focused pub – specialise in cocktails and small bites to eat and Apothecary will be no different, though it will also make a point of its music offering, which will include playlists and Friday and Saturday night DJ sets curated by Spiritland co-founder Dominic Lake.

Named for the building’s one-time usage – the site was once a chemist – Apothecary will open on June 2 on Charlotte Road, around the corner from Old Street Station, with a drinks list from Hamish Denny, who works alongside Lake as Spiritland’s group bar director.

Aside from a few years in the 1980s and 1990s, whisky highballs have been popular in Japan since the late Sixties, and will unsurprisingly be a star here, with one made with Suntory’s blended Toki whisky, soda and Genmaicha tea. Other cocktails Denny highlights include a Rhubarb Sbagliato – a twist on the Italian “mistaken Negroni”, with added umami –and a Sweet Pea (tequila, lemon, sweet pea, soda, absinthe).

Beers are another touchstone of izakayas, and will be here, while sake will be offered either hot or cold and in what they dub a “taster” size, which they hope will “encourage those less familiar to sample the delights of this Japanese rice wine”.

Food wise, snacks at the Tokyo-inspired spot will include skewers cooked on a robata grill, sushi, sashimi and Hirata steamed buns.

The history of izakayas is an interesting one, as they originated somewhere in the early 17th century, when sake sellers began allowing customers to stay in the shop and keep drinking, later introducing small plates for hungry punters who, so it’s said, were getting tipsy too quickly. They first began gaining popularity in London in the mid 2010s.

For more information, visit apothecaryeast.co.uk

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