Eating. It’s one area of our lives where small tweaks to our behaviour can make a massive difference to climate change. Food, and the agriculture system behind it, is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Restaurants in the UK produce just under 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year, which costs the food industry £682 million annually. What’s more, raising livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
But now a wave of properly radical London restaurants is helping the industry make major steps towards being greener while still producing incredible food. Over the years, veganism has only gone from strength to strength in the city. There’s a focus on farm-to-fork supply chains and recipes made from food waste. And this stuff is by no means a hippy fad. It’s here to stay. Here are six things we can learn from these industry leaders.
1. Turns out that soil is really important
Cult Milanese pasta restaurant miscusi got that status for a reason – and it’s not just because of its food. Its founders run a regenerative agriculture project just outside of Milan. Its focus? Soil. The team plants a variety of grains and seeds, which help pump nutrients back into the earth. Non-invasive techniques like composting and adopting low- or no-till practices also minimise soil disruption.
‘Farmers are the gatekeepers of the health of our soils: the most important foundation of a healthy farm ecosystem,’ founder and CEO of Miscusi, Alberto Cartasegna, says. ‘Good soil-health practices can truly help combat climate change from the ground up.’
Miscusi is opening its first restaurant outside of Italy in December, right here in Covent Garden. All dishes will feature seasonal ingredients, grown with organic farming techniques, and will be created with a nutritionist to reduce food carbon footprint so they can guide them on how to keeping with carbon emissions, water, and biodiversity impact for all the ingredients in mind. The restaurant will also be breaking ground by introducing an industry-first loyalty scheme that will reward diners for making food choices that are friendlier to the planet. As if we needed another reason to eat good pasta.
23 Slingsby Place in The Yards, Covent Garden, WC2E 9AB
2. Eating seasonally is the way forward
New restaurant Warehouse is going to be big in size – a whopping 2,000 square feet – but also big on sustainability. The plan is to provide seasonal food while supporting local suppliers. ‘If a menu stays the same all year round, it is not sustainable, because all you’re doing is mass-producing certain ingredients and not capitalising on fresh, local produce,’ Warehouse’s explains head chef Brendan Eades, who previously ran the kitchen at trailblazing zero-waste restaurant Silo. ‘Our menu will listen to the seasons. It takes flexibility. I’ll see things available from my produce suppliers one week and the next week they’re gone.’ The restaurant’s sustainability efforts go beyond food: its interiors will use natural materials and reclaimed furniture throughout. ‘If we don’t change now, there will be no future,’ Eades adds. ‘That is really what it comes down to, because the industry is not sustainable as it is. Change is urgent and it needs to come from everyone.’
6 Langley Street, WC2H 9JA
3. It’s time to get into foraging
You can go wild at Native. Not in a raging three-day bender kind of way, but in terms of what you eat. Founders Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis have created a restaurant that celebrates wild, foraged food, with hyperlocal British seasonal and sustainable cooking at its core. They incorporate game, unorthodox meat and fish dishes, like fallow deer haunch and Cornish hake, and carefully selected herbs, plants and vegetables into their dishes. The best thing to order? The Chefs’ Wasting Snacks, a selection of nibbles, like hen of the woods fungus with aquafaba smoke emulsion or squash, chermoula and tamari seeds, created using ingredients that would otherwise be destined for the tip. Also, a voluntary £1 donation is added to every bill which goes to Farms for City Children, a charity that enables kids from disadvantaged inner-city communities to experience farm and countryside life.
39 Brook St, W1K 4JE
4. You should probably find out how your fish is caught
Hackney fishmonger Fin and Flounder is one of the few businesses leading a change in the fishing industry. Instead of farm-raised and imported, it opts for fish caught via small boats and in-shore vessels. These use gear like pots, traps and fixed nets, which have a much smaller environmental impact compared to commercial fishing methods like bottom trawling, where nets are dragged along the seabed, destroying it. It’s no wonder that this family-run company has become one of the most trusted wholesale fish suppliers to some of London’s best restaurants, including Bright, Rochelle Canteen and The Clove Club. ‘As a rough guide to buying fish sustainably, always buy locally and seasonally, and eat fewer big, predatory fish,’ Fin and Flounder shop manager Mike Harrison explains. ‘Shellfish (clams, mussels, hand-dived scallops, potted crabs and lobster) are a very sustainable option due to their abundance and position in the food chain. Avoid imported fish and try some of the lesser appreciated species like plaice, flounder, spider crab or whiting.’ If you want a good quality catch of the day cooked fresh in front of you, head to Bar Flounder, the fishmonger’s new seafood shack in Netil Market, just around the corner from its shop.
71 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
5. Composting is cool
As well as being an Instagrammer honeytrap, Petersham Nurseries is in tune with nature and treats it with the utmost respect. Founded by Gael and Francesco Boglione, it’s long been an advocate of organic farming. Its on-site kitchen garden and plant nursery grow ingredients in a chemical-free way and it sources produce directly from the owners’ family farm in Devon. Slow food is the aim of the game, with the chefs sticking firmly to seasonal vegetables and fruits that travel as short a distance as possible (to cut down the energy needed to get them on to tables). Sustainability informs every aspect of the flagship Richmond restaurant: from the catering supplies to the uniform, everything has been picked for its eco credentials. ‘The kitchen uses greaseproof paper made from sustainable forests, 100 percent compostable and recyclable, and chef jackets are made from recycled bottles,’ says managing director Lara Boglione. ‘Our vegetable prep, coffee and tea waste are sent to our on-site compost. This is used throughout the nursery and kitchen gardens and helps us to grow the wonderful flowers in our cutting garden.’
Church Lane, Petersham Rd, Church Lane TW10 7AB
6. If you’re going to do meat, do it the old-fashioned way
By day Hill & Szrok is a little meat shop that specialises in small-herd and whole-carcass butchery. By night it’s a neighbourhood restaurant using local and seasonal produce, which has a no-bookings policy and a big communal table where chefs serve up leftover meat from the day’s trade until it’s gone. This place isn’t your run-of-the-mill butcher, it’s serious about its sourcing policy and traceability. It no longer buys animals from abattoirs and prioritises local producers, ensuring they’re paid properly and put animal welfare first. ‘We haven’t reinvented the wheel. We’re going back to how things used to be, by taking away options and only selling what’s available,’ Luca Mathiszig-Lee, co-founder of Hill & Szrok, explains. ‘[We’ve gone] from having everything the customer wants to now not having what the customer wants. It’s a risk, and we’re more expensive than our competitors, but it’s important to stock seasonally to prevent food waste.’
While some people argue that ditching meat and fish all together is the only way to eat sustainably, Mathiszig-Lee thinks there’s a middle ground. ‘People come to us because of what we stand for and what we do. We’ve actually had people who haven’t eaten meat for five years coming in,’ he adds. ‘I’m not telling people “don’t be vegan or vegetarian”, but if you’re not conscious about where food comes from you’re no different from someone who eats meat.’ Keep your eyes peeled for more from Hill & Szrok because it’s opening a second site in Newington Green in November called Stella’s (named after Mathiszig-Lee’s dog), which will have a cookshop and bar element to it.
60 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
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