From zero-waste policies to grow-your-own mentalities, these are London's most noble restaurants on the climate change front
Zero waste and lower emissions are practices on the rise in the restaurant scene. Some have quite literally chucked their bin in the bin, and others are growing their own, er, everything, with in-house farms. Shockingly, according to Petersham Nurseries, the UK’s annual environmental cost of food waste is 20 million tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of all 3.5 million cars across the east of England. We can choose to select restaurants with a sustainable approach for our various business meetings, first dates and break-up dinners. After all, the ice caps may be melting, but we still have to eat.
Built in 2011 on an idea of ‘not having a bin’, Silo is the only true zero waste restaurant not only in the UK, but in the world. A real pioneer with its sustainable approach and streets ahead of others like it, Silo comes from award-winning chef Douglas McMaster - who is, quite literally, a master of his culinary craft. Silo’s Hackney Wick restaurant is typical East London: it’s positioned in spectacularly airy white loft, above a brewery (CRAFT Brewery, FYI), and is fitted with industrial lighting and the kind of furniture IKEA try to emulate. The menu, which is a six-course tasting feast, is projected on the wall to avoid using paper, or god forbid, plastic lamination. All food waste is put into their aerobic digester, which overnight can create up to 60kg of compost. Everything from the plates to the tables are made from recycled plastic bags, crushed wine bottles and food packaging by-products. For an eatery with a worthy cause, Silo is your modern day Mother Teresa.
Petersham Nurseries is a shop, a supper club host and a cafe. But can you really call it a cafe if it has won a Michelin Star? And it’s not just winning stars for the quality of food, it wins a big gold star for its efforts on sustainability. It proudly boasts a minimum 95% zero waste initiative by using its on-site hives for beeswax and an advanced composting and anaerobic systems. Furthermore, Petersham is hoping to host workshops this summer to educate others on how to create their own beeswax sheets, in an effort to reduce the amount of cling film used in the UK and beyond. And if that’s not enough for you, take joy in the fact that the chefs wear uniforms made entirely of recycled bottles and waste polyester fibre.
A couple of years ago, Skye Gyngell proved her restaurant, Spring, in Somerset House was so much more than its Insta-friendly pink interiors and a highly delectable menu. It is, in fact, a pioneer in eco restauranteering. And who knew? Because when your restaurant can serve grilled langoustines with seaweed butter that look pretty with delicate petals and smell, well, like fresh langoustines, the desire to be a do-gooder of food goes out the window. But not for Spring. Following the success of its sustainable Scratch menu, which launched in November 2016, the team led a new initiative, which offered some shocking secrets. One noted that a restaurant would usually use approximately 800 miles of cling film a year, which with all 15,000 restaurants in London, accumulates to around 12 million miles. Of cling film. A year. Spring has since begun to introduce biodynamic farming and permaculture methodology would dramatically reduce a restaurant’s carbon footprint. Chef hats off to you, Spring.
With its main farm based, outside of London and in Gloucestershire, Daylesford has been one of the most sustainable farms in the UK since it was founded 40 years ago. It too has a zero waste policy, and its slogan ‘refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, re-home, rot’, rings true from its restaurant to its deli counter and through to its shop. Just to give you a little context, usually when it comes to a restaurant’s cost on the environment, it’s the source of meat and produce that is one of the highest polluters. The farms where meat comes from, the locality of its vegetables and the cost of shipping can be the biggest harmer after food waste itself. Daylesford, like Petersham, eliminates this problem by being its own farm. But did we also mention how incredibly chic it is? Yes, the food is fantastic; go, eat and indulge in the menu so healthy it’d make Gwyneth Paltrow proud, but be sure to browse its stores and pantry too (there’s one in Brompton Cross, Marylebone, Pimlico and Notting Hill), which as well as selling home accessories, also has a dry food dispensary, which will make you a kid in a Holland and Barrett-style candy store.
The list of backers behind Hoxton haunt, CUB, is like the restaurant equivalent of the cast of The Irishman. In other words, everyone who’s anyone is in it, including LVMH (yes, as in the fashion conglomerate), Krug Champagne and Belvedere and Silo’s Douglas McMaster, who has kind of become the Greta Thunberg of the London food scene. CUB is one of those restaurants that is casually very cool, the kind where you’d like to be seen at by your ex, which isn’t unlikely as it has an intimate 35-cover setting. As with the aforementioned establishments, CUB’s interiors and food preach the same lower-than-low waste, but what makes it a bit different? The bar. Music to the ears of everyone still celebrating the end of Dry Jan - CUB seeks to blur the food and drinks menu with some special concoctions, and has a spectacular choice of beverages that go beyond the usual natural wines list you’re often offered in a sustainable restaurant. Top tip: If you’ve never been before go for the set menu, to really get a taste of all its glory. Oh, and dress nice, just in case we were right about your ex.