Dating in the capital isn't always easy, and navigating your way around apps and ghosting can be more challenging than Tough Mudder on a hangover. The perfect venue for meeting your crush is a headscratcher too, but what if we said there's a place boasting mouthwatering sharing plates and interiors ideally setting you up for a romantic rendezvous?
Aptly named after the building’s original incarnation as an East London Victorian dispensary, this proudly independent izakaya (translated as a ‘stay-drink-place’) has been making its mark on the restaurant scene. Foodies have gushed over the lip-smacking meals and elegant decor with a Tokyo-inspired flair, and I’m happy to report that the hype is real, people.
First things first, the venue is a beaut, alright. We loved the striking bubble-like glass pendants, exposed brickwork, lush indoor plants and sexy red hues throughout. Dark wood screens were a nice nod to classic Japanese design and cunningly divided the space. Our table faced the gorgeous bar area, under the stunning sloped ceiling, and the forest-green circular booths paired with the dim lighting were perfect for cosying up in. Oh, and the tunes were great; think Marvin Gaye and 70s soul.
Cocktails? Apothecary East know a thing or two about them. From the pineapple and green tea-infused Off Beat (£7) that's made with energising benefits to make you feel good (it's booze-free as well) to my Pink Flamingo (£10); a simple yet delicious tequila and grapefruit mix, these sips delightfully kicked off our evening.
After much chin-pinching (it was that difficult to choose), we finally settled on what to eat. As I’m a vegetarian and the dishes are meant to be shared, we decided to flex our plant-based muscles with the majority of our order. As soon as they’re cooked, they fly out of the kitchen to ensure maximum freshness. To begin our culinary adventure, the lovely tofu gyoza (£6.90 for five). These crisp parcels were stuffed full of veggies, dunked in a salty soy dip. After reading the Apothecary East reviews, we made sure to pick the black sesame cauliflower (£7.90). Served piping hot, the flavour-packed florets were a match made in heaven with the earthy, nutty sauce. If I could marry a glaze? Then the soy-pickled garlic drizzle on the sweet potato (£6.90) would become my partner for life. The kick of chilli was a welcome addition too. Another top banana, and a signature staple from the menu, was the miso aubergine (£7.50). The caramelised chunks were covered in a marinade that was almost honey-like in taste, dotted with crispy onions for texture. Someone, please gimmie the recipe.
My date was debating ordering from their famous Robata grill, but made a beeline instead for the Wagyu tartare sushi roll (£14.90 for four pieces). The beef melted in his mouth, which provided an ideal contrast with the crunchy spring onion and fiery wasabi. If you love seafood, then you’ll adore the succulent grilled prawn skewers (£11.50 for two), coated in a sticky sweet gloss that had the right amount of heat.
Ditch the art galleries, as the avocado and roasted pepper dragon rolls (£11.80 for eight) were the prettiest, most intricate creations. The dainty, seaweed-draped mouthfuls were topped with a yuzu jalapeno salsa, which although tasty, needed much more of it to let the flavour shine through.
I would have loved to order their playful sake bombs (check out Apothecary’s Insta), but I realised it was only 6.30pm and didn’t want to be judged. So, next up came a refreshing Roku gin and tonic (£7.50). As for my other half? The Irreverent (£7); a slightly bubbly, bitter blend of mandarin and ginger soda that also had mood-boosting properties. But the high continued with the desserts. My absolute favourite, a sticky toffee pudding (£6) excelled on all fronts while the raspberry jus-dripped vanilla cheesecake (£6.50) was dense with cream and placed on a butter-rich biscuit base.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Seen the Apothecary East photos? Then you’ll know that this Shoreditch hangout is stylish with a capital S. Even though we visited in January, peak hibernation territory, the venue was still bustling; a testament to the quality grub and vibe on offer here. Although I left feeling satisfied, I’d advise ordering four dishes as opposed to the three they suggest. But maybe that’s the piggie in me...
💰 The damage: £111.40 excluding service.
📍 The location: 36 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PG.
👌 Perfect for: An affordable Valentine's Day (check out the menu specials).
⭐ Need to know: The lighting makes everything very Instagrammable, so don’t be shy in taking photos.
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