Waste Watchers: 8 London restaurants with a focus on zero waste

‘Sustainable’ and ‘restaurant’ are two words rarely falling hand-in-hand. These joints hope to turn that around.

Tasting menus at Native typically kick off with ‘chef’s wasting snacks’ made from scraps otherwise headed for the bin. Much like an impromptu bite on a Sunday afternoon when the shops are closed (just much much better), chefs create their own dishes from what’s in the back of the fridge. A method borrowed from the pioneering Blue Hill Stone barns, appetisers have included ox heart bao and broccoli pakoras.

Roganic is on a mission to mitigate its waste footprint as much as it can. Fish skins are turned into crisps, trimmings used in mousses and purees, while any surplus fruit and veg is pickled or fermented. Meanwhile, otherwise discarded anatomies of plants, like celeriac root or sweetbreads, are treated as sacred rather than unfortunate by-products.

Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge
Chiefly known for their vegetable delivery service, Riverford’s takeover of the Duke of Cambridge in Islington, subsequently making it the country’s only organic pub, is a shining example of how food establishments should, perhaps, function. Here, any food waste is used to generate energy, while all furniture in the pub is of reclaimed or recycled origin.

Sativa, a newcomer in Kensington, is on course to becoming a fully closed-loop operation. The restaurant grows their own produce at one end, and generate energy from any waste material the other. Sativa also make a point of sourcing from progressive, waste-conscious farms like the slaughter-less Ahimsa eco-dairy.

Farmacy is a vegan restaurant in Notting Hill. Because the kitchen grows its own food (on a biodynamic plot in Kent), they fully realise the importance of making what they have last longer. Using ingredients – courgettes, salad leaves, and such – in their entirety as much as possible, anything left behind is composted.

With the uncompromising principle of bringing in and butchering the whole beast – cattle, mostly – Temper are able to use up every part of the animal without the worry of wastage. As such, the restaurant gets through 65 fewer cows a week.

A collaboration between cocktail god Mr Lyan and Britain’s best-known zero waste chef Doug McMaster, few restaurants can claim to be as sustainable as CUB. Composting is the simplest form of zero waste happening at the bar and restaurant: They might use gas given off from a ripening banana to flavour a carrot, with the banana used in a banana bread and its skin a syrup. Even the restaurant itself has been designed with waste in mind – tables are made from old yoghurt pots, and walls from recycled clay.

Whether it’s the role of plastic and polystyrene in the restaurant supply chain, or the volume of edible food destined for the trash, Spring aren’t too happy about where many modern attitudes to food have got us. Appropriately, Spring’s pre-theatre ‘scratch’ menu is designed to make the most of food otherwise discarded or overlooked – potato skins, strangely-shaped fruit, yesterday’s bread, and more.

This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.

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