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Friday 5 Takeover: The Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Top Eateries

20 October, 2023

Today, we’re spicing things up and giving Friday 5 readers a taste of something different – a food-filled special curated by our pals at The Sustainable Restaurant Association (The SRA). Since 2009, The SRA has been the trailblazer setting the gold standard for sustainable food and drink businesses, stirring up change in the hospitality industry to create a world where every bite makes a difference. They’re the masterminds behind the world’s largest sustainability certification for the hospitality industry: Food Made Good, and they’re here to take us on a journey through the realms of eco-conscious gastronomy. So, wherever you may be, sit back, relax, and enjoy a showcase of five must-try sustainable restaurants around the world. Bon appétit!

1. Sowing seeds in the heart of the city: The Culpeper, Spitalfields, London

Among the hustle and bustle of the City of London lies The Culpeper – a rooftop restaurant surrounded with greenery and stunning views of the city. While enjoying a breath of fresh air and perhaps sipping a cocktail, you will find yourself reviewing a menu designed to showcase ingredients grown metres away from where you sit.

The Culpeper aims to bring nature into the city: a 500-square-foot space on its rooftop hosts a vibrant garden where fruit and vegetables are grown, picked and featured on the menu. This was the first step towards realising the vision: to establish a network of rooftop growing spaces, each providing a space to learn about, take inspiration from, and serve up hyper-local fruits and vegetables. Led by the on-staff gardener, Jack Astbury, they choose vegetables that are suited to small spaces and have high productivity, often using older varieties suited to kitchen gardening.

The Regenerative Rooftop Menu at The Culpeper changes with the seasons to reflect the latest harvest from their rooftop garden and its Deptford cousin. At the time of writing, you might find grilled fennel with hummus and harissa or burrata with caponata and basil – likely grown on their roof! Any ingredients they can’t grow themselves are sourced from farmers and suppliers who use regenerative farming practices, including dairy from The Estate Dairy and meat from The Ethical Butcher.

2. Sea the difference: Aponiente, Cádiz, Spain

The Bay of Cádiz, southern Spain is known for its ancient port, glorious beaches, and delicious seafood. Emphasis on seafood – because here lies Aponiente, a multi-award-winning restaurant holding three Michelin stars, and led by Chef Ángel León, a Food and Agriculture Organisation recognised Food Hero for his work to raise awareness about sustainable sea gastronomy and water management.

Ángel’s mission is to highlight the potential of our oceans when it comes to addressing the climate crisis and improving our diets, introducing people to a wealth of new foods. The kitchen uses marine species or parts of the animal that have historically been discarded to create gastronomic delights while restoring local ecosystems and re-establishing natural balance. Aponiente even has its own research lab. Here, for more than a decade, the team has continued to find new, unknown ingredients from the ‘sea pantry’ such as sea rice and plankton, and develop them into never-seen-before dishes.

Their extensive tasting menu progresses from The Salty Sea to The Sweet Sea over 22 astounding courses. Behind the scenes, a circular approach is applied across every facet of kitchen operations, and any organic waste that cannot be used elsewhere is turned into compost. On the plate plate, cuts from fish are reworked into new creations; think mackerel sobrasada, sea bass mortadella, mussel sausage, moray eel skin, hake cooked as fettuccine noodles, or osso buco made from tuna head. It’s safe to say that Aponiente offers a unique dining experience, leaving us inspired and hopeful for what the future holds for high-end gastronomy.

3. Garden of delights: Pythouse Kitchen Garden, Tisbury, Wiltshire

The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is over-used, but – tucked down an unassuming country lane in the bucolic surrounds of South Wiltshire – Pythouse Kitchen Garden may be deserving of the term.

This 18th century walled garden and restaurant is led by Head Chef Darren Broom, who takes pride in designing menus that celebrate the restaurant’s beautiful surroundings, pairing garden-grown produce with ingredients sourced from the wider community or locally foraged. Traditional skills like fermenting, butchering, curing, preserving, and cooking over a wood fire are all regular features.

Providing a balanced diet to customers is of utmost importance here, with dishes designed to be as rich in nutrition as they are in flavour. A stand-out is the Pythouse Sunday lunch, served every Sunday from November through March. Savour a glass of their own sparkling infusion – Sprigster – made with ingredients sourced from the garden and local growers, while the team cooks your table’s joint of meat (or veggie alternative) to order. Roasts are served family-style, accompanied by dishes of seasonal veg, puffed golden Yorkshire puds and rich gravy, followed by something sweet.

Be sure to have a walk through the grounds and visit the farm shop before settling in for your meal – you’ll find all sorts of homemade delights on sale, from rosehip skin oils and botanical soaps to sweet onion ketchup, smoked apple butter and Pythouse honey.

4. Heading to COP28? You’d better book BOCA… Dubai, UAE

In the heart of Dubai’s financial district, BOCA is a multi-award-winning modern Spanish restaurant and bar with a strong focus on sustainability, in a city not known for putting sustainable values first. Founded by hospitality visionary Omar Shihab, BOCA was named the Gault&Millau 2022 UAE “Sustainable Kitchen of the Year” and, in 2023, received a Michelin Green Star. The restaurant is currently on its way to three stars in the Food Made Good Standard.

From its home in the desert, BOCA provides ample proof that the UAE is far from a barren land, sourcing inspiration and ingredients from the rich biodiversity of the Hajar mountains, the bounty of the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, and the resourceful farms of the Central Region’s oases.

BOCA’s commitment to both people and planet is formalised through its Sustainability Manifesto. The restaurant refuses single-use plastic from suppliers, runs on 100% renewable energy and has just published its first carbon emissions report. By championing local produce, BOCA acts as custodian to its surroundings, supporting regenerative agricultural practices as well as small-scale farmers, fishers and communities.

So, what can you expect from a modern Spanish restaurant in the heart of the Arabian desert? Begin your meal with classic tapas favourites like gambas al ajillo, created with Dubai ingredients. Next, settle in for carefully designed mains: Arabian Gulf Kingfish served as ceviche, seaweed gel and salicornia (an ancient grain), or collagen-rich cod jowls with green peas and parsley velouté. Desserts marry Andalusian flavours with clever waste-reduction techniques; tocino de cielo uses egg yolks, labneh and every part of the pineapple, while the slow-cooked coconut arroz con leche is finished with blood orange sorbet, cardamom tuille and saffron gel.

If you’re heading to COP28 next month, BOCA should be the go-to place to network, entertain and enjoy.

5. Délices d’Ecosse: Café St Honoré, Edinburgh, Scotland

Hidden down an old cobbled street in this historic city, Cafe St Honoré is a long-standing feature of Edinburgh’s food scene, and rightly so. Chef Neil Forbes is a member of the Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance, and his kitchen is guided by the movement’s ethos that food should be ‘good, clean and fair’. The team here takes care to source the best of Scottish produce, dishing it up as hearty, straightforward bistro fare – a prime example of letting the quality of ingredients do the talking.

Local, seasonal produce has been at the heart of this restaurant since it opened its doors in 2008, with the menu changing daily to reflect what’s available and at its best. It is one of the few UK kitchens that still takes delivery of whole carcasses, and Neil uses as much of each animal as possible while passing on valuable traditional butchery skills to the younger chefs on the team. Neil writes a weekly newsletter showcasing a new recipe each week that people can cook for themselves. Cafe St Honoré is a frequent feature at Edinburgh’s Farmers Market, selling dishes made in the kitchen and supporting regular communication with suppliers, producers and artisans.

Expect cosy, intimate bistro vibes and a warm welcome before you settle down and check out what’s on offer. Depending on the season, you might find starters like crispy Orkney lamb belly with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise and organic leaves, or Belhaven cold smoked trout with pickles and horseradish. Mains might include a fillet of East Coast cod with buttery mash, tenderstem broccoli, sautéed leeks, surf clams and beurre blanc, or fennel tarte tatin with an endive and Lanark Blue salad. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets are well catered for, while the daily Café Classics menu offers a two- or three-course meal at a lower price point.

If you’re looking for a real taste of Scotland’s finest foods and flavours – served at their freshest and unfettered by over-complication – then Café St Honoré should be on your list.

~ The SRA’s Food Made Good Directory ~ 

The SRA’s Food Made Good Directory is an up-to-date list of food businesses that hold a current Food Made Good accreditation; you can find it here. Make sure to check it out to find restaurants in your region that are doing great work when it comes to sustainable restaurant and food practices.

By The SRA and Good Business

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