Londonâs best sustainable restaurants
A new category in the Time Out Eating
The Clerkenwell KitchenHelen Gray and Emma Miles first opened their canteen and catering company in 2002, but things didn’t really step up a gear until June 2006 when they moved into larger, better premises. Their business is part of Clerkenwell Workshops (a small office development), and it’s now a licensed café-restaurant. In the words of Miles, it ‘serves good food to ordinary people’. The food isn’t all organic as this would push the prices up, though organic produce is used extensively. Instead of being all-organic, CK is more interested in local sourcing, and deals with a lot of farmers such as Wild Forest Foods in Mill Hill or Kingcup Farms in Buckinghamshire, using what Miles describes as ‘traditional’ farming methods (ie non-intensive), but the farmers don’t have the resources needed to go fully organic.The food is very fresh, cooked every day using seasonal ingredients that are nearly all from the UK (though not coffee, wine, lemons, vanilla pods etc). There is always a good selection of vegetarian dishes on the daily-changing blackboard menu – perhaps a tortilla with mint and caper mayonnaise and tomato, or an Italian-style tomato, olive and bread salad. The dishes are affordable, with most main courses under £10 puddings around £4.
The policy on seafood is to use only what is plentiful – mackerel, sardines, squid, undyed smoked haddock (often line-caught), pollack, crab. Many dry goods are Fairtrade, such as the organic Fairtrade coffee from Union.
Time Out collaborated with London Food Link, an independent organisation committed to helping restaurants towards sustainability, and their environmental audit showed that bottled water is on sale, but much to their credit, staff offer ‘tap, still or sparkling’. They ‘try to minimise waste’ – paper, glass, plastic and cans are all recycled, via two specialist recyclers, one of whom recycles an astonishing effective 97 per cent of waste. And although not getting a perfectly green score on every count as an all-round dining experience, Clerkenwell Kitchen came out top.
The Clerkenwell Kitchen, 31 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0AT (020 7101 9959/www.theclerkenwellkitchen.co.uk). Farringdon tube/rail or 19, 38, 45, 55, 65 bus.
Duke of CambridgeFor eco-credentials and heritage, the Duke takes some beating. Opened in December 1998, this gastropub was organic from the start and is Soil Association certified (the highest possible organic ‘qualification’); even the beers are organic. Local, sustainable Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish is used whenever possible. Air freight is never used, and most food is sourced locally. Bottled water has never been served, only tap water (after filtration). Only Fairtrade coffee, tea and sugar is used. Although almost all electricity in London comes off the national grid, the Duke pays its electricity bills to a company called Good Energy, which ensures the payments go to renewable wind and solar sources; however, the chefs cook on gas, as most restaurant chefs do. There is great attention to detail in cutting waste to a minimum. In 2008 the Duke won three other awards, and partly because of its pioneering nature and the persuasive disposition of its founder Geetie Singh, it has won more green trophies and plaudits over the last decade than every other sustainable restaurant put together. At one time the Duke was part of a three-strong chain in the same ownership, but the Duke is the only one to have stood the test of time.Duke of Cambridge, 30 St Peter’s St, N1 8JT (020 7359 3066/www.dukeorganic.co.uk). Angel tube.
SafSaf has clear advantages over the other restaurants on this shortlist: as it’s a vegan restaurant, concerns about animal welfare, factory farming and fish supplies are dealt with in one swift blow. And to top that, much of the food on the menu isn’t even cooked – served either raw or having been heated to low temperatures – so energy usage is already a fraction of what it might be. All this sounds terribly worthy, but does it make the dining experience dull? Not at all, as the food is imaginative, colourful and beautifully presented, with surprising flavour and texture combinations. The room’s a looker, too. Investigating in more detail at the sourcing of ingredients, however, reveals a lack of as much seasonality as we’d hope for, a lot of unnecessarily imported ingredients (such as Himalayan sea salt); the water sold is mostly bottled. Saf mostly does a good job, but more work could be done in implementing its noble aspirations. Saf, 152-154 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3AT (020 7613 0007/www.safrestaurant.com). Old St tube/rail.
Tom’s Place – closedTom Aikens’ chippie closed suddenly at the end of August 2008 after a mere six months, following an ongoing battle with the local council’s environmental health officers prompted by complaints from local residents in this very posh part of Chelsea who were not keen on having a chip shop next door. A shame, as Tom’s Place had an admirable and carefully thought through policy of purchasing only sustainable fish – making it the only one of its type in London. Tom’s Place, 1 Cale St, SW3 3QP (020 7351 1806/www.tomsplace.org.uk). Sloane Square or South Kensington tube.
Eco champsTime Out collaborated with London Food Link (www.londonfoodlink.org) to judge the Best Sustainable Restaurant category for the 2008 Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards. The restaurants were assessed on both the independently verified environmental audits conducted by London Food Link, but also on their merits as a dining experience by Time Out’s anonymous reviewers to pick the eventual winner.