Best sustainable restaurants in the UK
Whether it's using cardboard plates, cooking the right fish, or only using ugly veg, we've rounded up some pioneering UK restaurants that are making big steps towards working sustainably and ethically
Looking for the best sustainable restaurants? Want to find the best restaurants using local ingredients? Read on for the best sustainable places to eat across the UK, then check out our guide to the UK’s best gastro pubs with rooms.
Hackney Coterie, Hackney
Anthony Lyon, owner of Crouch End’s nose-to-fin restaurant, Lyon’s, has teamed up with sommelier Kelvin McCabe to open this minimal-waste brasserie in Hackney. Orange banquettes glide beneath vibrant artwork from street-artist friends, Panic and Wafa. Exposed brick provides a backdrop to the contemporary bar lined low-intervention wines (try the unique skin-contact Zibibbo for a citrusy, aromatic pairing). The white negroni is fragrant and bitter, while the Hackney spritz is a complex and refreshing take on the classic, infusing chamomile tea, clarified apple cordial and wasabi and apple sparkling wine. Highlights of the sharing plates include a mackerel fillet in an umami-rich mirin-Marmite glaze with pickled cucumbers, and a trio of crisp-layered confit potato stacks coated in Szechuan seasoning with black tea mayo. Our pick of the generous sharing mains is a dry-aged soy salmon steak, formed of two fillets of perfectly pink salmon with a lively sambal salad to boot. To finish, hot filo apple tart encases chunks of Bramley apple in a beurre noisette caramel sauce, topped with honeycomb-like pieces of hazelnut and koji butter. hackneycoterie.net
The Pig's Head, Clapham
The Pig’s Head in Clapham Old Town is the second coming of the much-loved The Pig and Butcher in Islington. Like its predecessor, it’s dishing up meat sourced directly from some of the best farms in the UK, which is all butchered on site. Sustainability is the key driver of this 40-cover gastropub, from its décor of secondhand furniture to using 100% sustainable electricity and cleaning with fully biodegradable chemicals. Even the daily changing seasonal menu is reflective of the pub’s ethos, from classics including scotch eggs and playful dishes such as the crispy pig’s head, all the way through to mains that showcase the talent of the kitchen. But vegetarians need not fret – it’s not all meat here. There are some truly divine vegetarian and vegan dishes available, which staff are more than happy to talk you through while you enjoy a glass of wine or two from the double-sided wine list (one side of which is exclusively dedicated to British wines). thepigshead.com
The Fat Badger, Richmond
The Fat Badger's stylish farm-to-fork menu concentrates on excellent ingredients and an impressive list of English wines, all served in a fun and vibrant setting.
The Fat Badger is the Gladwin brothers' fifth restaurant launch but the first outside central London, tucked at the bottom of Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames. The same ethos applies at all their restaurants, showcasing ingredients from their farm in Sussex, as well as their own range of English wines.
The menu is British but with a creative twist and centred around locally sourced meat and fish (although there's plenty on offer for plant-based diets, too). Think roasted south coast hake with chorizo and lemon potato vinaigrette, or sticky spatchcock partridge with barley, sweetcorn and ground elder pesto. Don't miss the Marmite and mushroom eclairs as a starter for an earthy but moreish start to your meal.
There's a bustling vibe and the atmosphere is laidback and unpretentious, but feels luxurious too. The staff are charming and with a wealth of knowledge, they take their time helping you make the perfect selection of food and wine. gladwinbrothers.com
Fallow, St James's
After 18 months at Heddon Street, ex Dinner by Heston chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray have moved their sustainable-focused restaurant down the road to St James's. There's a buzz from friends and colleagues catching up on tables beneath suspended planters of dried flowers, and chefs slicing, sizzling and charring ingredients in the large open kitchen. Beetroot lends the jasmine winter highball its vibrant pink hue in the colder months, while frozen margaritas make the perfect summer pairing to the iconic kombu-seasoned corn ribs. A rich, smooth swirl of mushroom parfait is topped with shiitake and grey oyster mushrooms, grown on-site above the kitchen, frills of fried cabbage and pieces of smoked venison and beef sit atop wood-fired flatbreads, and layers of potatoes are pressed together to create crispy stacks of boulangère potatoes. Ingredients otherwise destined for waste are elevated into exquisite dishes such as the large cod's head soaked in pools of sriracha butter, served with spoons to seek out meaty pieces. This ethos continues through to desserts, which are worth squeezing in, with coffee-waste ice cream balancing a rich Pump Street chocolate ganache and surplus whey transformed into the silkiest caramelised tart. fallowrestaurant.com
Unlike so many box-ready restaurants, chef-owner Chantelle Nicholson wants Apricity to be “not just sustainable but restorative, a closed-loop of use and re-use”. It’s an aim that requires effort – foraging nettles and hazelnuts in urban London, designing zero-waste cocktails, using up-cycled and repurposed furniture – and imaginative flexibility. Day to day, chef Eve Seemann will execute dishes such as Cornish mackerel and Shetland mussels with sambal butter and pickled pear, or crispy sprouts with spent-beer vinegar and rosemary. Meanwhile, Chantelle, who first made her name at Tredwells, will manage green energy issues, waste-minimal menu planning or gluts of hyper-seasonal produce from suppliers. Many of these hand-picked small producers practise “regenerative farming”, a buzz-term for traditional techniques that nurture diverse, natural landscapes and improve soil health. “It gives more than it takes,” says Chantelle, who wants Apricity to be similarly nourishing. For example, there will be no discretionary service charge to ensure staff are paid a reliable, set wage: “I want the guys to feel secure and rewarded.” Mains from £22; apricityrestaurant.com
“Convenience is sustainability’s enemy,” insists Nicholas Friar, owner of the deliciously different Hypha. Not only is Hypha’s micro-seasonal tasting menu entirely plant-based (think yakitori-grilled shiitake with apple and kohlrabi remoulade, lacto-fermented barley risottos, rye bread with cultured turnip cream) but more than 80% of its ingredients come from local grower Alice Leech in a self-contained system or “closed-loop” that sees Hypha’s waste return to Alice as compost. Not that this hip bolthole creates much waste – instead, Nic and chef László Nagy use cutting-edge and pre-industrial techniques to creatively transform potential off-cuts in Hypha’s “up-cyled jus” (an intense pectin-thickened veg sauce) or numerous
pickles and ferments. Nic likens Hypha’s busy fermentation lab to a time machine: “We’ve the luxury of preserving to carry us through winter, not for nourishment, but to create future flavours. We want people to taste things they’ve never tasted before. If they go away thinking about sustainability, great. If not, we’ve done our part.” Menu £69; hypha.uk
The Loch & the Tyne, Windsor
Chef Adam Handling has pioneered sustainability in top-end British restaurants, most visibly at London flagship The Frog. But handsome pub-restaurant The Loch, opened last May, executes his ethos on a new scale.
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That waste-minimal approach, says group GM George Hersey, is both principled (“We’re environmentally conscious; we love nature”) and practical: “We want to save money. Why bin stuff we could do something with?” Set in orchards and its own vegetable gardens, The Loch has much in its favour. Not least chefs and co-owners, Stephen Kerr and Jonny McNeil, long-standing Handling lieutenants well versed in the “zero-waste croquette” (made using fish trim from the pub’s fish and chips), turning cabbage leaves into kimchi to serve with local venison or, recently, trying to eradicate cling film from the kitchen. “Every week, The Loch becomes more sustainable,” says George, but without losing its pub essence. For instance, its burger, served with Ogleshield cheese and garlic-thyme chips, is made from ex-dairy cows. “We want a burger,” explains George, “but we’re trying to use the most sustainable beef.” Mains from £18; lochandtyne.com
Pizza Pilgrims, Selfridges, London
With its mural of the Bay of Naples created from 2,000 used bottles and seats upholstered in Piñatex (a materal made from pineapple leaves), the latest Pizza Pilgrims is “a sustainability laboratory,” says co-founder Thom Elliot. And it’s one whose testing of different green initiatives will determine how this 18-site pizza brand develops in the future. With the exception of its beloved Italian tomatoes (“Sadly, we haven’t discovered a new British strain”), the new site will, for the first time, use mainly British ingredients: Wildfarmed’s “incredible” regenerative wheat flour, mozzarella and hydroponic-grown basil from London and Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie. UK sourcing comes at a higher cost and, consequently, the pizzas at Selfridges are more expensive than at other Pizza Pilgrims sites. For example, it’s £1.45 more for a margherita. But will diners accept that eco surcharge? “There are big questions about what customers want,” says Thom, “but my strong feeling is our consumers want it to be right.” Pizza from £9.95; pizzapilgrims.co.uk
Maray’s three restaurants – purveyors of stellar Levantine small plates – are now carbon negative. But its work with Carbon Neutral Britain – calculating Maray’s annual 50 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and paying £400 yearly to offset that through reforestation – is, says co-founder James Bates, “the bare minimum”. For this Sustainable Restaurant Association member, the real work will entail radically reducing those emissions at source by, for example, curtailing water or green electric usage. “Paying to be carbon negative helps me sleep; it’s a personal values thing,” says James, but if restaurants “just offset, there’ll be a backlash”. Working towards net-zero emissions will be long and complicated (“Staff commute is a big element of our footprint”) but diners sat enjoying Maray’s falafel, fattoush or kofta with saffron tzatziki should – unless they spot the absence of unsustainable seafood on the menu remain blissfully unaware of that battle, and James loves that. Restaurants, he says, can offer amazing food, wine and experiences while working sustainably “without it making a jot of difference to the customer”. Plates from £5-12; maray.co.uk
Six new recruits to the green scene
From renewable electricity to banning clingfilm, this pizza joint was designed (less meat, UK ingredients) to be a greener slice of tomorrow. It’s also a Living Wage Foundation employer. Pizza from £8; nellspizza.co.uk
FIELD by Fortnum’s, London
At the next incarnation of FIELD, every dish is sourced from regenerative farms and day boats. Ingredients from the shop that are not for fit for sale are used in its British-focussed menu (including a fabulous welsh rarebit) and interiors reuse and recycle furniture and crockery. Small plates from £4.55, mains from £13.50; fortnumandmason.com
The unique, sustainably built, covered outdoor space is home to chef Tom Powell’s wood-fired plates of, say, collard greens with coal-roasted onions (70% veggie menu, nose-to-tail elsewhere). Plates £4-11; kindlecardiff.co.uk
Chef Brendan Eades cooked at zero-waste Silo and brings a similar ethos to Warehouse’s dishes of roast pumpkin, crème fraîche and dukkah, or battered cod cheeks. Large plates from £15; warehouselondon.com
Gaucho's second restaurant serving exclusively carbon-neutral steaks. The chain has minimised emissions in rearing its Argentinian beef cattle, transports by low-impact sea containers and offsets via a reforestation scheme. gauchorestaurants.com
The Pig’s Head, London
From whole-animal butchery and eco-friendly cleaning products, to keg-wines and plant-based options such as celeriac schnitzel with a crispy caper dressing, this “planet-friendly” pub is future-proofed. Mains from £16.50; thepigshead.com
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The Black Swan at Oldstead and Roots, York
Tommy Banks jokes that his committed approach to sustainability simply stems from being a “tight Yorkshireman” and any frugality comes from growing up in a farming family. But his methods go well beyond saving money at his Michelin-starred and internationally acclaimed restaurant-with-rooms The Black Swan at Oldstead and York small-plates restaurant, Roots. The majority of produce used in both kitchens is as local as the Black Swan’s garden and family farm itself, the rest is from small local suppliers – often the fruit and veg no-one else wants, such as 80kg of unripe strawberries. But it’s the way the produce is utilised that makes Tommy a true sustainability star – from using one Hispi cabbage to feed 16 people (the outside leaves are used as wraps at the Black Swan, while the hearts are roasted at Roots), to the waste whey, from homemade cheese using raw milk, which is used four times, across two savoury dishes, in ice cream, and caramelised and grated on top of carrots.
He’s also mindful of his carbon footprint, using induction hobs rather than gas and, because they’re not on mains electricity at The Black Swan, the waste heat from a diesel generator is used to heat up water tanks to heat water for the restaurant’s bedrooms, as well as the polytunnel where the seedlings grow. blackswanoldstead.co.uk, rootsyork.com
Mayfair's Native celebrates the country’s best wild food that is indigenous to the UK, with most of the ingredients foraged from London and surrounding countryside. Run by Ivan (who trained at New York’s Blue Hill Farm and River Cottage HQ in Devon) and Imogen, the duo serves à la carte and tasting menus. Zero-waste snacks include celeriac tacos, yesterday’s bread and sourdough crackers, while meat is served in imaginative ways, from wood pigeon kebabs to venison sausage rolls. Desserts often feature a savoury spin, be it hay-baked pumpkin pie or the signature dish, a bone marrow filled with white chocolate. eatnative.co.uk
Silo, Hackney Wick
For St John-trained Douglas McMaster, his zero-waste epiphany came when he worked in an Australian restaurant that threw away too much. “I just knew something was wrong,” says the chef, who has reduced his own waste by simply not having bins in his kitchens. Douglas and his team use every part of the vegetables and animals, with pickling and fermenting techniques employed to make everything last longer. Whether it’s using eco-friendly clingfilm or using vegetable skins, Douglas goes the extra mile. “I’m doing everything I can to provide an alternative,” he says. silolondon.com
Haar, St Andrews
Dean Banks comes from Arbroath, on Scotland’s north-east coast, and the restaurant’s name Haar (a Scottish mist that rolls in off the sea) is a nod to the seaside location. The à la carte menu focuses on sharing dishes, small and large, while a six-course tasting menu steals some of its stars. Dishes mix up local, seasonal ingredients (Dean is keen to keep Scottish seafood in Scotland and champions local producers) with Asian culinary influences gleaned from his travels (think Fife rare-breed pork belly with kimchi puree or vividly spiced octopus on a tangy bed of citrus barley, with a burnt tomato puree and coriander oil).
It’s also worth hitting the Haar Bar for one of the signature cocktails (which change nightly, like menu specials). If they’re on try a Mary Queen of Scots (Uwa Reposado, Darnley’s Gin, clove and cinnamon syrup, mint and lime). haarrestaurant.com
Carters of Moseley, Birmingham
At Carters of Moseley, Brad Carter uses exclusively British-sourced produce and little-known or ‘lost’ ingredients such as lemony Douglas fir (yes, the same as your Christmas tree) and kaffir lime leaves grown in Evesham rather than Asia. As well as growing produce on his urban allotment, Brad’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond the plate. Carter gives his sous vide bags to a company that recycle them and turn them into children’s plastic toys. The money made from these toys is given to Hospitality Action, a charity for hospitality workers who have fallen on tough times. cartersofmoseley.co.uk
Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
You may imagine that Michelin-starred restaurants, our most cerebral hospitality environments, are pace-setters in sustainability. In fact, the holistic changes which Sat Bains has introduced at his restaurant-with-rooms remain rare.
Sat made headlines in 2015 when he reduced his staff’s working hours to four days-a-week, while continuing to pay them the same salary. In an industry fighting over a small pool of talented chefs, Sat wanted to make this two-Michelin-starred property a more attractive place to work. But it was also about rewarding his team. “We took a massive [financial] risk for their future,” says Sat, who talks about demonstrating, by example, how restaurants can treat staff in a fair, nurturing way: “It’s an obligation we have as restaurateurs.”
In recent years, Sat has overseen several other innovations that are, similarly, virtuous circles: moves which have made his restaurant leaner, greener and tastier. This journey started when the University of Nottingham asked Sat to help them create a solar-powered house. He showed the team how to cook his famous 62C duck egg, pea and ham dish in a low-temperature oven and, subsequently, a Ph.D student visited to analyse where Sat’s kitchen was wasting energy: “Our electricity bill was going through the roof, £40k- £50k-a-year, just ridiculous. It was a really good learning curve.”
The restaurant switched to LED lights, energy-efficient induction hobs and invested in a composting system, Closed Loop Organics, which processes the vast majority of Sat’s food waste. The composter both radically reduced the restaurant’s landfill disposal costs (“Bin liners full of wet vegetable waste are about 90% water. You’re paying to bin water!”), and produces a nutrient-rich compost which is used to grow everything from nasturtiums to tomatoes in the restaurant’s two recycled Victorian glasshouses and along a rainwater-fed living wall in the car-park.
“We do a kohlrabi tagliatelli cooked in a butter, nutmeg and parmesan rind stock, and then, at the table, we make a pesto from the beautiful greenhouse cresses. You can’t get fresher. We’re showing that in an urban environment, under pylons and a flyover, you can grow delicious stuff.” restaurantsatbains.com
This elegant basement fish restaurant is both a Glasgow institution and a sustainability pioneer. Inspired by the Slow Food movement and the crisis around dwindling fish stocks, chef-owner Derek Marshall took a stand in 2010: “Gamba’s got a reputation for being expensive and using the best cuts of fish but, ultimately, it wasn’t always sustainable. We had to change our ways.”
Derek stopped using any endangered species and started using cheaper fish that are in plentiful supply. This switch to using Sri Lankan yellow-tail tuna for Gamba’s sashimi, or sustainably-farmed sea bass has not necessarily been easy.
“I’m not saying I’m 100% sustainable, I don’t think any fish restaurant could be,” says Derek, “but hopefully we’re 99%.” How switched-on diners are to these issues is moot. Rather than focussing exclusively on perceived luxury ingredients, such as langoustines or (highly endangered) skate, the public has embraced workaday fish such as hake, mackerel and bream but, says Derek.
“Customers’ perceptions of fish are strange. I’ve only got one whole fish on because I know customers don’t like bones. We have the areas where the fish comes from on the menu, so, hopefully, we’re educating people. But you’ll get one customer a week that’ll comment on it. Sometimes I think we’re fighting a losing battle, but we’re not, because we’re doing what we think is right.” gamba.co.uk
The Gallivant, Camber, East Sussex
The Gallivant’s owner, Harry Cragoe, doesn’t come from a hospitality background. Refreshingly, therefore, he has no preconceived ideas about how things should be done. For instance, where other owners might freak at the cost or logistics of it, The Gallivant sources 95% of its fresh ingredients from within 10 miles of this beachside restaurant-with-rooms.
Likewise, in tribute to the flourishing UK wine industry, Harry delisted champagne and now serves 30 British sparkling wines. “I’m totally in favour of reinvesting the money we receive from guests in the local community and, guess what? Our guests really like it,” says Harry.
His most radical departure, however, has been to ban tips and service charges and, instead, put all staff on at least £9-an-hour (far higher than the National Living Wage and even Living Wage Foundation rates). He also pays staff further performance-related and profit-share bonuses.
Harry dislikes the restaurant industry’s minimum wage culture and could not understand how the tips system (which often favours senior, long-serving staff) was fair: “In my business a housekeeper could be as valuable as someone waiting-on, so that was potentially unfair. And I didn’t think star performers should be paid the same as people going through the motions. It’s a weird way of incentivising people.”
The Gallivant’s new wage bill is “terrifying”, but Harry feels that improvements in pay, along with staff perks such as subsidised gym membership or company-funded training in wine or butchery, are essential if the restaurant industry is to attract talented, passionate staff. “Hospitality is a tough business: you work long, anti-social hours and it’s pretty stressful. If you want to retain good people and you want your staff to deliver a great customer experience, you need to pay them fairly.” thegallivant.co.uk
“We weren’t necessarily tree-huggers when we came here,” concedes Battlesteads’ owner, Richard Slade, “but we quickly realised that if we wanted to create something unique, we had to work with nature and the environment.”
For the past 14 years, the Slades (Richard and Dee) have done precisely that. They have created a beautiful inn by embracing the benefits of going green. In everything from cultivating the gardens to attract new bird life; forging links with local suppliers; or installing a carbon-neutral heating system. This engagement with Northumberland goes beyond infrastructure, too. Battlesteads provides meals for the village school and hosts an annual charitable beer festival. Rural businesses, says Richard: “have to be involved in the community...”
Captain’s Galley, Scotland
“Honestly, I’d never boiled an egg,” says Jim Cowie, as he recalls his decision, aged 52, to open his own restaurant. Seventeen years on, the Captain’s Galley in the Highland port of Scrabster, is one of the UK’s most revered seafood restaurants. Jim, it turned out, is a natural.
Not that he was starting entirely from scratch. Prior to reinventing himself as a chef, Jim worked as a fish trader, a job that took him to some of the world’s best restaurants. Moreover, Scrabster’s day-boat fishermen are lifelong friends of his. Each day, Jim visits the quay, buys his fish and writes a new menu. “I’ve no problem getting brilliant fish but, more than that, I know the fishing areas and what is in and out of season.”
Café ODE, Devon
The public is beginning to value green dining, but, says Café ODE owner, Tim Bouget, plates remain a sticking point. ODE serves up to 400 meals-a-day in compostable cardboard trays and: “It really annoys some of the older generation.”
Those numbers suggest that Tim is winning the argument, and his cafe above Ness Cove in Shaldon (“They call it a quaint drinking village with a fishing problem.”), is certainly built to last. Every detail of this stable block conversion – sedum roof sewn with wild flowers; solar thermal heating; lambs’ wool wall insulation – was chosen for its green credentials. “It’s the right thing to do and good business sense,” says Tim, who also runs Shaldon’s ODE Dining restaurant. “Why would we buy tables from a factory when we can get them made here and support local suppliers?”
Words by Tony Naylor, Mark Taylor, Lucy Gillmore, Ellie Edwards and Laura Rowe
Photographs by Tim Green, John Arandhara-Blackwell, Thomas Bowles, Jake Eastham