Restaurants are getting healthier; they’re also keeping waste to a minimum.
Whatever your relationship with eating out was before this year, there’s little doubt that it’s become, more than ever, a rare luxury, something to be savoured. Yet while we’re appreciating that, it may be worth sparing a moment to consider someone or something who has probably really appreciated the curtailment of our dining pleasures: the planet.
In the U.S. alone, food waste and packaging account for around half of what’s sent to landfill; in the U.K., restaurants produce a mind-boggling 915,400 tonnes of waste each year, including 199,100 tonnes of food waste. And that’s only a small part of the problem – the hospitality industry as a whole is responsible for around two million tonnes of waste in the U.K. annually. This year’s closures have been a tragic struggle for many businesses, but it’s quite likely that the environment, on the other hand, breathed a sigh of relief.
Bin the Bins?
Yet there is another way. The growing popularity of zero waste restaurants is proof of the fact that people within the industry are examining their processes and switching them to ones that balance profit with positivity.
As the name suggests, a zero-waste restaurant is one that aims to completely eliminate, not only food waste, but waste, period. We’re talking lifting the bin lid on collection night and realising that it’s too empty to even bother hoiking it to the curb.
In fact, KERB, well known on London’s street food scene, is one of the many businesses to have approached the SRA (Sustainable Restaurant Association) for support on how to make the latest addition to its stable, in Covent Garden, sustainable.
While many players in the hospitality space are making concerted efforts to reduce their contributions to climate change, Zero Waste restaurants aim to go even further, with furniture and fittings made from recycled materials and every scrap of food to put to use.
Ready to give eating at Zero-Waste restaurant a try? Here are five suggestions for where to start in London.
Having first opened in Brighton in 2014, SILO came to London in 2019 and drastically changed the landscape in terms of what could be achieved in the eco-sphere. It offers a slick and stylish interior and high attention to sustainable detail. As well as direct commerce with suppliers, and composting scraps, the furniture is crafted from waste materials and the plates, from recycled plastic.
Ottolenghi’s passion for well-thought-out food is well-known, but this venue, in Fitzrovia, takes consideration to a new level. Sustainably sourced ingredients – as well as a low intervention wine list and botanical cocktails – are the stars of the menu. Leftovers are used to create flavours with which to infuse future drinks and dishes. Energy is also used thoughtfully, with the heat from the kitchen used to warm the dining space.
3. Gourmet Goat
Located within Borough Market, the award-winning Gourmet Goat uses sustainable and ethical ingredients in homemade dishes. It uses techniques with sustainability at their core – such as pickling leftover veg. Meticulous planning ensures that waste is minimised. On the rare occasions when it occurs, it’s donated to food charities to feed the hungry or homeless.
4. Café Van Gogh
Featuring an irresistible vegan menu, Café Van Gogh is an NFP social enterprise located in Brixton Market. The café aspires to be zero waste, with ‘nuh-uh’ tolerance for single-use plastic, and a focus on compostable packaging and recycled food waste. It also works with a number of charities to provide work experience to disadvantaged people. Expect the likes of harissa courgettes, white beans, braised tomatoes, tahini, and potato crisps, or aubergine and red pepper shakshuka with crispy tofu, tahini, and Zhoug.
5. The Duke of Cambridge
Putting a new and ethical spin on the Great British Pub, The Duke of Cambridge has a rigorous recycling policy. That’s not only where the usual suspects of glass and cardboard are concerned. But also in terms of the anaerobic generator to which food waste makes its way. All of the restaurant’s furniture is either pre-loved, repurposed, or recycled, while energy is sourced from responsible providers.