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15 innovative restaurants and bars making London greener

What to do with some of the 200,000 tonnes of food that UK restaurants bin every year? Eat it, of course! Fifteen experts champion the London bars and eateries getting green cred by creating taste from waste

Sustainable restaurants and bars
Photograph: Andy Parsons
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Restaurants and bars all over the city are doing their bit to make going out in London more sustainable. From transforming stale sourdough into fancy cheese crackers to using the whey from burrata-making to produce delicious sodas, chefs and bartenders are tackling food waste in creative (and tasty) ways. We asked experts from the world of sustainability to nominate their favourite green venues.

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100 best restaurants in London 2015 - The Ledbury
Jake Eastham
Restaurants, French

The Ledbury

icon-location-pin Notting Hill

Nominated by Igor Vaintraub, The Food Waste Farmer

Green credentials Head for dinner at The Ledbury and you might leave with a bag of something surprising. The Notting Hill restaurant gives customers packages of compost to take home, made from the kitchen’s food waste. The eatery’s sustainable approach spreads beyond its four walls to its sourcing too. It has opened its own deer parks where the animals are fed on used grain from local breweries. 

It says ‘We started farming deer because it’s much more environmentally friendly than any other process of producing protein. We’re not doing it for PR; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.’ Brett Graham, founder 

Bean & Wheat Hoxton
Photograph: Tim Green
Restaurants, Café bars

Bean & Wheat

icon-location-pin Spitalfields

Nominated by Mary McGrath, CEO at FoodCycle

Green credentials This Shoreditch café was set up to use surplus ingredients from neighbouring restaurant The Frog Hoxton. The chefs create dishes like pork-offcut terrines and cauliflower-stalk salads. Plus, since both joints are so close together there’s no carbon footprint for delivery. 

They say ‘We’re aiming to be zero-waste. We need to ditch this idea that there are “good” and “bad” parts of ingredients.’ Adam Handling, founder

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Photograph: Jamie Lau
Restaurants, Contemporary European

Spring

icon-location-pin Aldwych

Nominated by Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Wahaca

Green credentials Pappardelle and beetroot-with-burrata don’t sound like dishes made from kitchen scraps, but that’s the kind of thing you’ll find on Spring’s pre-theatre ‘scratch menu’, which transforms ingredients that would be heading for the bin anywhere else (beetroot tops, pasta off-cuts) into delicious, sophisticated meals. The restaurant also sources its produce seasonally from biodynamic farm Fern Verrow. Whatever the farm grows is what ends up on the menu. 

It says ‘Being in the hospitality industry has opened my eyes to the large quantities of food discarded – a  third of all produce globally. I’ve always loved working with seasonal ingredients but when I opened Spring, I wanted to shout about these important issues.’ Skye Gyngell, founder

Photograph: Andy Parsons
Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Culpeper

icon-location-pin Whitechapel

Nominated by Jenny Costa, founder of Rubies in the Rubble

Green credentials The pretty rooftop garden at Whitechapel gastropub The Culpeper isn’t just for show. In 2018 it produced 150 kilos of fruit and vegetables. The produce is used throughout the menu and there’s always one dish made entirely from rooftop ingredients. Now that’s what you could call blue-sky thinking.

It says ‘When you’re using seasonal produce, everything tastes a lot better. Our gardener will come down with a big box of radishes that have just been harvested, and they’re so delicious that we don’t need to do anything to them!’ Sandy Jarvis, operations director

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Photograph: Andy Parsons
Restaurants, Australian

Caravan

icon-location-pin Clerkenwell

Nominated by David Moore, founder of Pied à Terre

Green credentials The takeaway cups at Caravan are extra-special. They have a lining that, unlike most ‘to-go’s, can be removed for recycling. But that’s not the only green initiative at the restaurant and roaster’s five locations. Coffee grounds are composted, beef has been off the menu since 2017 (to reduce the chain’s carbon footprint) and the team thinks creatively about leftovers – like using the whey from burrata to make lacto-fermented soda. Whey to go!

It says ‘Action without collaboration has less impact, so we’re joining up with sustainable groups whose mission is the same as ours.’ Shelley Walker, head of sustainability and charity

Things to do, Food and drink events

Brixton Pound Cafe

icon-location-pin London

Nominated by Laura Winningham, founder of City Harvest

Green credentials Brixton Pound Cafe uses ingredients that would otherwise be wasted by local businesses and turns them into vegetarian dishes like lentil dhal and leek-and-potato soup. It’s also pay-what-you-want, so whatever your financial situation, you’ll be able to eat there.

It says ‘Since January 2018, we’ve saved 4.8 tonnes of surplus food from landfill, which is equivalent to 60kg a week, and served 16,000 hot meals to our 23,500 customers.’ Sean Roy Parker, café manager and volunteer coordinator 

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Restaurants, British

Native

icon-location-pin Bankside

Nominated by Emilie and Deepak, founders of Oddbox

Green credentials This London Bridge restaurant serves ‘chef’s wasting snacks’ made from leftover ingredients. Expect fermented potato waffles with chicken liver parfait and cod trim toast with gooseberry hoisin. So fancy! Plus, don’t be alarmed if you find grey squirrel on the menu. The chefs say the meat’s super-sustainable (and tasty). 

It says ‘The people who collect our bins were worried that we had no customers when we said we only needed one waste and one recycling collection per week!’ Imogen Davis, co-founder 

Photograph: Andy Parsons
Restaurants

The Conduit

icon-location-pin Mayfair

Nominated by Doug McMaster, founder of Silo and co-founder of Cub

Green credentials You might think a Mayfair members’ club is an unlikely place for the start of an eco revolution, but you’d be wrong. Not only has The Conduit banned single-use plastic – quite a feat given how much clingfilm professional kitchens get through – it’s tackling food waste with some innovative cooking. The ends of sourdough loaves are transformed into crackers and gateau. 

It says ‘Banning single-use plastic is hard but there’s no middle ground. If there are things that we need clingfilm for, we just won’t do them. I’ve worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and the amount of waste and plastic that gets used is greater as the stars increase. I wanted to show that [the opposite] can be done.’ Ben Lines, head chef 

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Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Nine Lives

icon-location-pin Borough and London Bridge

Nominated by Georgina Wilson-Powell, editor of Pebble Magazine

Green credentials Zero-waste neighbourhood cocktail bar Nine Lives comes up with innovative ways to give ingredients a new lease of life. Take the humble lemon. Every part has a use: after putting the juice, skin and oils into cocktails, the pith is distilled to release essential oils which are then used for liqueurs and hand soap. Leftovers are composted to help grow herbs in the kitchen garden. Then the cycle starts again. Turns out that when life gives you lemons, you can make more than just lemonade.

It says ‘Our immediate aim is to be a completely self-sufficient bar without any waste. We live on a finite planet and we need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to preserve it.’ Victor Zigu, head bartender

Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs

Tap 13

icon-location-pin Tooting

Nominated by Saasha Celestial-One, co-founder of Olio

Green credentials If Espresso Martinis on tap aren’t enough to get you to this bar in Tooting, perhaps the fact that all the drinks come from reusable kegs will get you over the line. Zero waste is the order of the day here (you won’t get any frilly garnishes on your cocktail) and drinks are all sourced from ethically minded local businesses – think Borough Wines and Bullfinch craft beer. We’ll drink to that!

They say ‘In the hospitality industry, waste is really hard to avoid, so it feels good to put a foot on a different path and start to make a change, however small it may be!’ Paul Belcher, owner

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Restaurants, Contemporary Global

Cub

icon-location-pin Hoxton

Nominated by Megan Adams, founder of ReStore

Green credentials Drinks legend Ryan Chetiyawardana – aka the guy behind the current World’s Best Bar, Dandelyan – has a pretty awesome side hustle. Cub is a cocktail bar-restaurant that produces 70 percent less food waste compared to an average joint. Chetiyawardana and the other founders are now focusing their efforts on working with sustainable local suppliers and on reaching out to the public so that everyone can learn how to live waste-free at home. We’ll happily join this Cub! 

It says ‘We’ve moved beyond focusing on waste – we’re trying to find ways of removing the stigma around the world of “sustainability”. We want to dispel myths, give at-home and industry suggestions and challenge greenwashing.’ Ryan Chetiyawardana, co-owner of Cub

Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Scout

icon-location-pin Shoreditch

Nominated by Anshu Ahuja and Renee Williams, founders of DabbaDrop

Green credentials If you go down to the woods today, you might find someone from Scout foraging. The restaurant and cocktail hotspot reduces its carbon footprint by picking ingredients like wild camomile, mahonia and hawthorn blossom from nearby wooded areas and open spaces such as Hackney Marshes. It makes sure there are no leftovers too, with waste products used to make delicious and inventive fermented drinks. Birch sap with tarragon and sugar kelp water, anyone? 

It says ‘We believe in the value of being in nature and doing everything we possibly can to do our bit for the environment. I think that this should become the new norm for the industry rather than a concept.’ Matt Whiley, co-owner of Scout

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Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Nightjar

icon-location-pin Shoreditch

Nominated by Paul Greening, head chef of Aqua Kyoto

Green credentials Even the vibe at Nightjar is recycled – it’s a speakeasy cocktail bar reusing the flavours of the pre-Prohibition era. But it’s in the kitchen that the really smart rethinking happens. The bar’s signature sparkling drink Buckwheat Kvass is made using a buckwheat honey sourdough yeast starter created from stale bread. Fruit offcuts are dehydrated or candied to make into garnishes. And that’s just the start… 

It says ‘Ingredients such as kumquats, papaya and browned mint leaves are dehydrated and infused in alcohol. When edible leaves start going bad, they’re dried, powdered and mixed with icing sugar to be used as aromatic crusts and dusts.’ Tony Pescatori, head bartender

Restaurants, Thai

Kiln

icon-location-pin Soho

Nominated by Ryan Chetiyawardana, co-founder of Cub

Green credentials Most Thai curries are thickened with coconut milk, but at barbecue joint Kiln, the chefs use monkfish liver. It sounds unlikely but it works – and uses a part of the fish that would usually go to waste. The chefs are also decreasing Kiln’s carbon footprint by swapping Thai ingredients for British ones, such as nettles in its curries. Don’t panic: they won’t sting you!

It says ‘People look to restaurants for direction on how and what they should eat – and I think, as a restaurant, if you ignore these things, you’re part of the problem.’ Ben Chapman, owner 

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Photograph: Andy Parsons
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

icon-location-pin Dalston

Nominated by Tom Fletcher, founder of Rejuce

Green credentials This garden café composts all of its food waste (plus that from nearby restaurants) on site to keep its bee-friendly garden lush. 

It says ‘We have more than 150,000 visitors every year. Our aim is that they absorb information about sustainability. It’s education by stealth.’ Marie Murray, co-director 

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