A guide to London's zero-waste restaurants
The thoughtful London restaurants going to every length possible to adopt a low and no waste approach
The country is burning. We've had one of the hottest summers on record. The parks are parched and the trees have segued into an early autumn, dropping their leaves like confetti. It can feel hopeless at times, wondering how to proceed in a way that stops what feels like our rapid roll towards irreversible climate change. Even something as simple as going out for dinner can feel like a loaded decision.
Increasingly, diners want to visit a restaurant and see how everything stacks up – whether its morsels are as moresome as its morality, and know that the plate of food in front of you isn't pummelling the environment. In the end, and especially with the ecological, viral and economical crises that we are facing as a society, going out for dinner is a special occasion and one that you want to get right. Taking part in a cause and patronising a restaurant with a conscience can make you feel that much more sanguine about the whole experience, so that rather than running away from all of the problems we face, we’re addressing them head on.
Waste is a naturally enormous bi-product of most restaurants, but one that can easily be reduced or removed altogether when enough thought goes into it. There are, however, depressingly few restaurants in London actually prioritising. The ones below, however, are leading the charge: cutting out waste where possible, and, in the case of some, going so far as to utilise parmesan rinds in order to ensure they are truly waste free. Now that's a dinner you can feel good about.
Browns, 39 Brook Street, W1K 4JE
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When we’re talking about restaurants that break from the norm when it comes to low or no waste, Native seems like the intuitive response. Built on a foundation of foraged ingredients, the restaurant is hyperseasonal and low-waste, replacing ingredients so subtly that, if it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, you may not even notice. Take, for example, the sea buckthorn margarita. This deciduous shrub is plentiful throughout the country and easily foraged for and – crucially – has multiple environmental benefits, including helping prevent soil erosion and nitrogen fixing. Or the fish trim toast, which does exactly what it says on the tin, repurposing offcuts of fish that would otherwise go to waste.
68 Duke Street, W1K 6JU
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Chantelle Nicholson has dedicated her career to a commitment to doing things differently. For Nicholson, this manifests itself in running a restaurant that truly works in harmony with our environment, in the hopes of operating with as little a footprint as possible. She previously won a Michelin Green Star for the now closed Treadwells, and looks to be bringing that exact ethos to Apricity. Whether it’s in reutilising all ingredients to reduce waste, or repurposing items for the interiors, Apricity is hoping to change the way we think about restaurants.
Unit 7, The White Building, 1st Floor, CRATE Bar, Queen's Yard, E9 5EN
No one in the country cooks like Douglas McMaster. He makes waste reduction look easy and cooking seem like a magic trick. This isn’t just repurposing vegetable tops into pesto, or cooking with the lesser-loved parts of the animal, it’s a holistic, ingenious approach that makes even the most unusable ingredient seem like a culinary masterstroke. Parmesan rinds are fermented to become a rich, unctuous miso paste and beef trimmings are put away for a year to develop a punchy, funky garum. All ingredients are delivered to the restaurant in reusable vessels, and the space is largely bedecked in upcycled products, from plates made from plastic bags to crockery crafted from crushed wine bottles.
Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC2R 1LA
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When it comes to sustainability, everything exists on the spectrum, and initiatives that seem intuitive are still rare. Take Spring, for example. They have a unique farm-to-table relationship with biodynamic Fern Verrow Farm. This is rarer than you might think. But it’s not just about the sourcing of ingredients at Spring. In 2019 it became the first London restaurant to become plastic-free, paving the way for others to come. Diners can also opt for the special Scratch menu, crafting dishes from ingredients that are often overlooked or destined for the bin – like yesterday’s bread being given a second life as warm bread pudding.
52 Haymarket Street, SW1Y 4RP
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Restaurants often become synonymous with a particular dish, that signature plate of food that ends up top of everyone’s must-photograph list and thus everyone’s must-order list. At Fallow, that dish is almost certainly the cod’s head with Sriracha butter sauce. A part of the fish that’s usually discarded, their popularity on the menu has meant there’s an entire fishing community in the Shetland Islands who no longer discarded their cod’s heads, but ship them off to Fallow for eating. Elsewhere, the restaurant has a penchant for utilising undesirable ingredients, like potato peel for their bread or cauliflower leaves and leek tops, and they grow their own mushrooms in-house.