Food waste is one of the biggest issues facing the restaurant industry and recent years have seen a growing number of restaurants and chefs starting to tackle the issue. Ex-Tredwells founder Chantelle Nicholsen, and Skye Gyngell of Spring, are just a couple of examples of pioneering chefs who have totally transformed their own restaurants to be kinder to the planet. But more on that later.
In fact, it’s not just chefs and restaurants who are paving the way for doing things more sustainably. Customers want – nay, expect – more from businesses these days, and actively seek out places that give back to the planet and the community. No longer is it enough to simply serve great-tasting food and drink. Customers care now more than ever about what goes on behind the scenes, from sourcing high welfare meat and supporting local producers to thinking about the way the ingredients are cooked to ensure nothing is wasted. It’s the reason that restaurants such as Silo, Warehouse and Native exist today, all of which were born out of a desire to change the way restaurants operate by offering a low-waste, ethical and sustainable way of doing business.
Once upon a time, it was only vegan restaurants who cared about any of the above, but now it’s a prerequisite to any new and aspiring venture. Many places go beyond what’s on the menu, crafting interiors that are just as rigorously sourced as the food. Furniture that’s been upcycled or made using recycled materials, for example, or decorative details sourced from artisan producers. To clarify, it’s these sorts of places that we’ve included in this round-up: the ones that go a little bit beyond serving seasonal menus (trust us, there are plenty of those already in London) to those that use sustainable energy or have cut their use of plastic entirely.
The appetite for sustainable restaurants is a trend we’re very much on board with, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. So, if you’re looking to green up your dining act, take some inspiration from these London restaurants that are all doing truly great things for the city’s dining scene.
Warehouse, Covent Garden
What: The first thing to know about Warehouse is that it’s led by Brendan Eades, formerly the head chef at Silo (which is also in this list). The second thing to know about Warehouse is that it’s part of an ethical member’s club, The Conduit, although you don’t have to be a member to dine here. It takes huge pride in its relationships with its suppliers, carefully sourcing ingredients from producers who share similar sustainable ethoses. And while the food is pretty special, take a moment to notice the interiors, which are inspired by the Global south and feature reclaimed furniture, handwoven curtains and ceramics sourced from artisan producers.
Where: 6 Langley Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JA
Book now: Warehouse
Dinings SW3, Chelsea
What: We've included Japanese restaurant Dinings SW3 in this guide for its commitment to responsible sourcing. It's a subject that matters a lot to executive chef Masaki Sugisaki, with all its fish sourced from Cornish dayboats, plus a handful of ethical producers across Europe and Japan. Recently, the restaurant established its ‘Sustainability Series’ which takes a deep dive into some of Dinings' most sustainable suppliers. Its scallops, for example, are hand-dived by a local diver in Devon to ensure minimal environmental damage, and arrive at Dinings SW3 within eight hours of being caught. Now that's what we call fresh! Finally, details about the provenance of its producers are indicated on the restaurant's menus where possible.
Where: Walton House, London, SW3 2JH
Book now: Dinings SW3
What: Ravinder Bhogal’s Jikoni in London was the first independent restaurant to become carbon neutral in 2021. Awesome. Not only that, it’s looking to overhaul its supplier roster to only include ones that are exclusively more sustainable, is working with Climate Neutral to help it decrease its carbon emissions and has been generating green energy by utilising solar and wind power since 2019.
Where: 19-21 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London, W1D 3DH
Book now: Jikoni
Hawksmoor, Various locations
What: Famously lauded for its epic steaks, Hawksmoor's meaty offering isn't one you'd necessarily associate with being planet-friendly. But the steakhouse has worked hard to ensure all its meat is sourced ethically and supports the earth's food system, and is now the world’s first carbon neutral steak restaurant group. It set itself the goal of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2022, and managed to reach that target a year ahead of schedule. It's also implementing practices to reduce its overal greenhouse gas emissions and become a Net Zero company by 2030, has made the move to renewable electricity in the UK and ensures all food waste is converted into biogas. The company is also educating staff in the basics of carbon and climate change. We love to see it.
Where: Various locations
Book now: Borough, Knightsbridge, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Guildhall and more
Frog, Covent Garden
What: Frog is Adam Handling’s flagship restaurant, and like all of his restaurants, is built on a fundamental commitment to minimising waste in the food industry. Handling promotes educating people on how to eat and cook more sustainably without ever compromising on flavour.
Where: 34-38 Southampton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7HF
Book now: Frog
Silo, Hackney Wick
What: Silo was probably one of the first sustainable restaurants to appear on the map, initially opening in 2014 in Brighton before ethical restaurants were really a thing. It’s since moved to London, Hackney Wick to be more specific, and is paving the way for sustainable restaurants everywhere with its zero-waste approach to cooking. You’ll also find a counter top made with recycled glass bottles, post-industrial materials used for the furniture and a constantly-changing menu because, obviously, this place is all about seasonality.
Where: The White Building, Unit 7, Queens Yard, Hackney, London, E9 5EN
Book now: Silo
Spring, Somerset House
What: Spring is the brainchild of Skye Gyngell, whose previous experience includes The French House and Petersham Nurseries. Its first sustainable order of business was launching its Scratch menu back in 2016, an entirely separate menu made from ingredients that would otherwise go to waste so as to raise awareness about food waste in the UK. The menu is constantly changing depending on what ingredients the kitchen has in that day and is less expensive than its regular offering – just £35 for three courses. Spring also launched its Plastic Campaign in 2018 to eradicate its use of plastic, and is now entirely plastic-free.
Where: Somerset House, Lancaster Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 1LA
Book now: Spring
Native at Browns, Mayfair
What: Located within luxury fashion store Browns in Mayfair, Native offers a simple mantra - whatever grows together goes together – and serves a seasonal set menu, foraged cocktails and natural wines. Its owners are passionate about foraging and growing their own ingredients, while the menu features ‘wasting snacks’ made from ingredients that usually are thrown away.
Where: 39 Brook Street, London, W1K 4JE
Book now: Native at Browns
The Duke of Cambridge, Islington
What: Part of The Culpeper Family Hospitality Group, The Duke of Cambridge is one of its four London pubs on a mission to positively impact the planet through the way it operates. In fact, it’s the UK’s first 100% certified organic pub and lead by Riverford Farm’s Guy Watson and Geetie Singh, who have curated an organic seasonal menu alongside plenty of biodynamic wines and carbon negative beers.
Where: 30 St Peters Street, Islington, London, N1 8JT
Book now: The Duke of Cambridge
The Buxton, Brick Lane
What: Another one from The Culpeper Family, The Buxton in East London is a bistro and hotel with 15 rooms. It grows herbs on its rooftop to be used in the kitchen and bar, sources its ingredients from responsible suppliers, changes its menu depending on what’s in stock and offers plenty of low intervention wines and local beers. Sustainable practices are built into the way The Buxton operates, and that extends to the hotel too which features original handwoven artworks, rugs and blankets made by local weavers.
Where: 42 Oxborne Street, London, E1 6TD
Book now: The Buxton
The Spread Eagle, Homerton
What: The world’s first 100% vegan pub (there are a lot of firsts in this list), The Spread Eagle puts an emphasis on sustainable, minimal waste and plant-based drinking and dining. Signature dishes include pie, mash ‘n’ liquor, the ploughman’s board, its ‘TSE’ burger and sticky toffee pudding.
Where: 224 Homerton High Street, London, E9 6AS
Book now: The Spread Eagle
What: ‘Simplicity, service and seasonality’ form the restaurant’s mantra, with an emphasis on foraged produce, a relaxed style of fine dining and the best ingredients available for the time of year. Some of these are grown in the market’s Garden Terrace, giving an urban spin to the field-to-fork concept, as ingredients are picked moments before finding their way onto diners’ plates.
Where: Camden High Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 8QP
Book now: Wildflower
Black Cat Café, Hackney
What: This is one of those places where if you know, you know. Independent vegan café Black Cat in Hackney serves a cosmopolitan menu with a rustic, home-cooked spin: think generous portions and comforting flavours. All its cleaning products and materials are plant-based too and it hosts events for causes who campaign for animal rights. It’s a goodie.
Where: 76A Clarence Road, London E5 8HB
Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond
What: Petersham Nurseries really is a special corner of the city. Fittingly located on the outskirts of leafy Richmond, this pretty garden-inspired restaurant grows much of its produce on its family farm in Devon, which is totally organic, chemical-free and soil association assured. It also offers a minimal waste approach to cooking in its kitchens and uses an aerobic food digester to turn food waste into water, reducing its carbon footprint. It also sends its coffee waste to Bio-Bean, who turn it into biofuels. All this means that Petersham Nurseries received a Green Michelin Star in 2021 – and well-deserved, too – a new award from the guide which recognises restaurants that are at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices.
Where: Church Lane, Richmond, TW10 7AB
Book now: Petersham Nurseries Café
What: Rabbit is a farm-to-fork restaurant brought to Chelsea by the Gladwin brothers (also The Fat Badger and The Shed) which holds sustainability at the forefront. Born out of a love for wild and foraged produce, something clearly expressed through its Local & Wild menu, Rabbit pays close attention to its ingredients, with a lot of them sourced from the brother's own family farm and Nutbourne vineyard in West Sussex.
Where: 172 Kings Road, London, SW3 4UP
Book now: Rabbit
What: Coming to Mayfair in March 2022 is Chantelle Nicholson’s latest venture, Apricity, which will be built on the ethos of her previously acclaimed restaurant Tredwells. It will offer a vegetable-focused, zero-waste approach to cooking and a menu that highlights seasonal British produce, alongside low intervention wines that champion English vineyards and wineries. It's also set to be a social conscious endeavour with the team behind the restaurant all sharing the same sustainable values as Nicholson. Stay tuned.
Where: 68 Duke Street, London, W1K 6JU
Book now: Apricity
In more good food news, here are 11 charitable restaurants that are giving back to their communities