6 of the best zero waste restaurants in the UK
There's a dirty word in kitchens and it's not Okra, it's waste
Zero-waste has become a bit of a buzz word, with it popping up on most trend lists for 2020 lately, but the efforts to keep kitchen bins empty is real and with more restaurants embracing a zero-waste approach across the UK is this more of a lasting mindset than just a fad?
The fact is UK restaurants produce almost 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). And sustainability doesn’t just mean just tackling food waste: think straws, coffee pods, packaging and staff working hours.
There's a lot to think about but many restaurants are realising that an eco-friendly approach is good for business and helps restaurants reduce costs, as well as benefiting the environment.
Some chefs have even taken to transforming leftovers into new dishes and engineering menus around the week's offcuts and waste to serve up discounted meals to eco-conscious diners. Native a restaurant in Borough, South London, for example, serves up a three-course meal for £20 at the weekend, with all ingredients made from leftovers from the week.
Here's a pick of the best waste-free restaurants dotted around the UK.
Silo — Hackney, London
It’s tagline is "the only truly zero-waste restaurant" in the UK, and Silo deserves its pioneering reputation. This chic restaurant has successfully eliminated waste by composting every scrap and piece of leftover food directly on-site.
Silo first opened in Brighton in 2014 and has since relocated to Hackney, London. Maintaining a belief in food purity, the ex-Noma chef Dan Gibeon uses foraged local ingredients, flour is milled on site and he relies on natural farming systems to determine what is cooked and how it is cooked. Gibeon stresses a sustainable kitchen is not as a trend, but a lasting mentality.
The team even crush all waste glass for their local potter to make into beautiful ceramics for the diners and everything down to the chairs has been up-cycled and repurposed. The restaurant is also affiliated with the botanical brewery Old Tree, which produces drinks made from fermented plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits.
Poco Tapas Bar — Bristol
Poco Tapas bar Facebook
Bristol’s Poco Tapas Bar was named the most sustainable restaurant of the year back in 2016 and 2018 thanks to its commitment to the zero waste movement. They adopt a ‘root to fruit’ philosophy, with 95-100 per cent of food waste composted and recycled and products chosen with little or no packaging.
At the end of each shift chefs and waiters weigh the rubbish bags, keeping a record of what is being wasted so it can be reduced in the future. Meanwhile LED lighting is used throughout the restaurant, with all power drawn from renewable energy.
RESTAURANT SAT BAINS — NOTTINGHAM
Restaurant Sat Bains Facebook
As well as having a garden where up to 40 per cent of the plants, salads and herbs that the kitchen needs is grown, this two-Michelin-starred restaurant named after it's owner uses a digester to turn any food waste which does escape the kitchen into compost, which then goes into the garden, closing the loop.
Restaurant Sat Bains is a bit of a drive outside of Nottingham, but this gives enough space for the garden and greenhouse Chef Sat Bains maintains outside of the restaurant – a good way to avoid transport, packaging and oversupply – so diners can see exactly what on their plate.
The restaurant's 10-course tasting menu has come famous for miles around with people travelling long distances to sample a range of seasonal surprises from start to finish.
Rovi — Fitzrovia
Ottolenghi’s restaurant Rovi opened in 2018 in Fitzrovia, London and from the start it has used fermentation techniques and fire to make vegetables more interesting and last longer.
It recycles heat energy from the kitchen to heat the dining space, while left overs are used to create new cooking vinegars, rich vegetable stocks and the bases of botanical cocktails.
Fruit and vegetables are sourced sustainably from a biodynamic farm in Sussex, while all unused produce is reused in other forms, for instance unused wine goes towards making vinegar, and unsold coffee grounds helps cook hasselback lime beetroots.
The restaurant is going all out to support their "food waste fighting friends" too.
CUB — Hoxton, London
When the world's number one pioneer of zero-waste cocktails bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana (AKA Mr Lyan, famous for best-bar-in-the-world Dandelyan, White Lyan, Lyaness) teams up with zero-waste chef Doug McMaster, from Silo, to create Cub, a spark of waste-free magic occurs.
Everything is sustainable here, from the food to the way staff are treated. The ingredients used are sustainable sourced and while it's not vegetarian, their menu leans towards plants and when meat is used, it's a conscientious choice and less obvious cuts. It’s only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, allowing the chefs to have quality time off to recover.
Even the design of the restaurant was executed with the environment in mind: the walls are made of breathable clay, the table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots, and plates are made from recycled plastic bags.
Angela's of Margate
Angela's of Margate Facebook
Since opening in 2017, this tiny, yet stylish, seafood restaurant has made a huge impact locally and beyond. Angela’s of Margate scooped The Good Food Guide’s 2019 Best for Sustainability Award for its commitment to careful sourcing, cutting food waste, reducing plastic use (the table tops are made from recycled carrier bags) and its partnership with a community garden to turn scraps into compost.
Jüst around the corner you'll find Angela's little sister Dory’s, a space which contains a shop that sells the raw ingredients used in Angela’s kitchen – from fresh fish and vegetables through to cheese, wine and beer – alongside a seafood bar that overlooks Margate main sands.
"Our philosophy for both is an uncomplicated one. We will always consider our people and our planet first, working directly with growers, fishermen and suppliers who understand how to make the most of their produce and at the same time minimise the impact on our environment," says the website. Five stars for Angela's!