Dominic Lake and Rohit Chugh to launch izakaya on former Merchants Tavern site

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese restaurant Apothecary to open on former Merchant’s Tavern site

Related tags: Apothecary, Merchant's Tavern, Dominic Lake, Japanese cuisine, Shoreditch, Casual dining

Dominic Lake and Rohit Chugh are to launch an izakaya-inspired venue within the Shoreditch site that was once home to Merchants Tavern later this month.

Located on Charlotte Road close to Old Street Station, Apothecary will echo the high-energy and sociable environments of Japan’s famed izakaya bars, offering Japanese small plates alongside music and DJs curated by Lake’s bar and live music brand Spiritland. 

The space will accommodate over 130 covers and will ‘reflect a contemporary Tokyo-style tavern through a Shoreditch lens’, combing the site’s exposed brickwork with wooden screens to create a dining room that is 'simultaneously intimate and connected'.  

“We’re celebrating the industrial look and feel of the building but it’s a large space so we need to separate it to achieve an element of intimacy and cosiness,” says Lake, who co-founded Merchants Tavern with Patrick Clayton-Malone, Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick in 2013. 

“Merchants Tavern sadly closed due to the pandemic, so this is a completely new business with a new lease. I’m pulling all the creative together but I’m not the ringmaster, so to speak.” 

Chugh - the restaurateur behind Roti Chai and Chai Ki - is leading menu development having spent a significant amount of time in Japan. 

“He went on a food odyssey there and totally fell in love with their approach to eating, from the smallest snack to high-end restaurant experiences,” continues Lake. “Rohit is a tasting machine, the menu development has been hardcore.” 

Served from an open kitchen, the menu will be expansive, including a selection of skewers from a robata grill, sushi, sashimi and Hirata steamed buns. Prices will range from £3–£15 per plate. Former Villandry chef Jude Sam will lead the kitchen. 

Former Tortilla head of finance James Williams will lead the business as managing director and the dining room will be overseen by general manager Jordan Kirk, who is well known in the area having held similar posts in a number of Shoreditch restaurants. 

The cocktail is being created by drinks specialist Hamish Denny, whose CV includes Spiritland and Hawksmoor. Cocktails include Whisky Highball (Toki whisky, soda, and Genmaicha tea); the Sweet Pea (tequila, lemon, sweet pea, soda, and absinthe) and the Rhubarb Sbagliato (gin, rhubarb, rose, fizz, and umami). 

Sakes (both hot and cold) will also be offered in small ‘taster size’ to encourage those less familiar with the drink, alongside a range of beers, both local and Japanese, and an extensive wine list.

"Fun and boozy is very much part of the narrative. The lockdown has reinforced some of the fundamental joys of life. We won't be taking ourselves too seriously," says Lake. 

Apothecary will be open all day but Lake expects the business to trade more strongly in the evening. "We're not expecting lunch to be off the charts. We need to recognise where our strengths are and make the most out of night time." 

Apothecary is slated to launch towards the end of this month for friends and family with the soft launch planned to run until mid June. 

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