Grappling with issues of environment and food sustainability presents its challenges at home. Leave the confines of our own kitchen, however, and it becomes an entirely different beast. So, comfort comes from knowing that there are a growing number of restaurants where it’s possible to eat a really considered plate of food — where ingredients are sourced locally, ethically and sustainably. Even in the endless concrete capital, patches of green are appearing that cater to conscious dining.
Tucked away down a quiet Islington side street, the Duke of Cambridge has a menu of seasonal dishes, sourced fresh from the fields of Riverford’s farm in Devon. Under the ethically-focused steer of entrepreneur and ‘organic publican’, Geetie Singh-Watson, The Duke has joined forces with partner — in business and marriage — Guy Singh-Watson, owner of pioneering organic farm: Riverford. The business, best known for its veg boxes, has won awards for its progressive approach, including Ethical Product of the Decade at the Observer Ethical Awards. Any produce that hasn’t grown on the farm has been sourced from a meticulously vetted network of certified UK organic growers and producers before being sent to plate at The Duke.
The focus is on locally, expertly, produced ingredients at this Greenwich Peninsula restaurant and cafe. Much of what turns up on the plate is produced by Craft, or by a network of carefully curated British farmers and artisans. Even the honey in its ice cream is made on-site, from resident beehives — while its kitchen garden provides as much in the way of fresh greenery as it can, before the list is outsourced to other local suppliers. Seasonality is a theme continued in Craft’s upper-floor bar, where it only adds seasonal and sustainably grown fruit to its list of cocktails. Craft runs test kitchen events and tasting menus, catering to meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike.
From its farm in Gloucestershire, Daylesford operates a 90% organic business model throughout its small UK network of stores and kitchens. With four locations in London and one in its home county, the farm provides seasonal groceries and a fresh food menu, supplemented occasionally by trusted growers of those things that are a little harder to come by. The kitchen specials boards are stocked straight from the farm and change regularly, to accommodate what’s fresh and available on the day. The meat on the menu comes from grass-pastured rare and native breeds, reared on its farms in the Cotswolds and Staffordshire — as does the dairy produce and eggs.
Set among the endless concrete swathe of E1 is a pub less ordinary: The Culpeper. Bedecked with a rooftop greenhouse diner and serving a food and drinks menu that makes use of its harvests, it shows what you can achieve even in the most hemmed-in parts of the city. The C celebrated its rooftop cucumber bounty in 2018, with a giant gherkin installation by Studio Stilton in honour of the pub’s eponymous inspiration — botanist, Nicholas Culpeper. The pub hosts events, from terrarium-making workshops to urban organic farming masterclasses, in a bid to spark Londoners’ interests in what can be grown amid the grey.
Farmacy occupies a regal space in London’s Notting Hill, with a much talked-about plant-based menu. It grows some of its own fresh produce on a small plot of land in Kent — transporting it from field to kitchen via electric van, as soon as it’s plucked from the ground. The brand’s mission statement is to ‘raise consciousness around food’, and it insists on a chemical-free approach to sourcing its ingredients. Farmacy is also taking tentative steps to tackle the enormous issue of food waste in the capital by using every part of the plant, from root to leaf tip.
Under the maxim: ‘Seasonal British Restaurant’, The Dairy in Clapham grows its own salad ingredients in its South London rooftop garden, and further produce on an old patch of scrubland in the area. Where needs extend beyond what these small kitchen gardens can cope with, it sources from its own dedicated farm — Full Circle, in Sussex. As further testament to its ethical credentials, The Dairy recently started turning leftover produce from food waste initiative, Indie Ecology, into a rich organic fertiliser. Sister establishments, Sorella — their relaxed neighbourhood Italian — and Counter Culture, operate on the same green principles.
This Kennington gastro-pub runs an allotment initiative with local schools and residents, in a bid to put to good use the vegetables grown on land in the local area. The Stags recycles all of its food waste by composting and keeps beehives on its rooftop garden — producing, it’s said, some of the best honey in the area. The menu comprises of traditional pub classics with a modern twist and is determined by what’s in season locally — also making use of fresh salad ingredients from that rooftop kitchen garden. The pub is considered one of The Culture Trip’s top seven eco-friendly restaurants in the capital.
While Spring doesn’t pull produce from its own gardens, it does base its entire premise on sharing local, seasonal, fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be destined for waste. The sustainable menu changes according to what’s available and all of the produce sourced is organic — with a set three-course menu starting from £20.