FOOD & TRAVEL
The World’s Best Sustainable Restaurants
By Alexa Scott-Dalgleish
Eat, drink and be merry. Especially when it can be done in one of these impeccable eco-eateries.
Peru’s gastronomic reputation precedes it and Mil Centro is one of the newer openings on the scene ensuring that this isn’t about to change anytime soon. It is the second project from star Peruvian chef, Virgilio Martínez (whose flagship Lima-based restaurant is a regular on the ‘World’s Best Restaurants’ List), perched 3,500 metres above sea level in the Sacred Valley above an Incan archaeological site. The swirling complex of tiered terraces was used by the Incas as an agricultural research station – a heritage celebrated by a Martinez whose farm-to-table menu is packed with dishes made from ancient, indigenous Peruvian ingredients and traditional culinary techniques.
Further homage to its surroundings includes a biological and cultural research centre devoted to the exploration of the Andes’ product biodiversity and ancient techniques; a flavour laboratory that researches cacao chuncho, a wild species of cacao that grows in the city Quillabambo; and a micro laboratory dedicated to ferments, distillates and macerated liquors derived from local species. Even the buildings themselves are crafted using local materials and resources.
This Parisian bijou bistro from chef Bertrand Grébaut is one of the most sought-after restaurants in the city and a paradigm of sustainable excellence. Grébaut’s quest was “to liberate good French food from expensive hotel dining rooms” and he has done so exceptionally, with a menu that is 80% vegetarian, surprisingly affordable, and verified by a Michelin star. The small quantities of meat and fish that make their way onto the menu are strictly free-range, ethically reared, sustainably-sourced and bought in their entirety, where experimental broths and terrines ensure that even the most unconventional cuts don’t go to waste. This unfussy approach can also be seen in the restaurant’s interior, which are fitted with a spiral staircase, industrial light fixtures, rough-hewn wooden elements and an earthy colour palette.
99% of products are sourced on French soil with great emphasis placed on the fair and ethical treatment of farmers, whilst seafood comes from a supplier who deals directly with small-scale French fishermen and pays 20% more than the market price. In some cases, Grébaut deals directly with farmers, asking them to plant special vegetables with a guarantee to buy all of the produce at the best price. Septime also works with Farm Africa and an organisation called Ernest, which links restaurants with charities tackling food poverty.
Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa and his eponymous two-Michelin starred restaurant are true gastronomic pioneers, renowned for developing a new genre of cuisine known as “innovative Satoyama”. Satoyama refers to the area found between mountain foothills and arable flat land, and when applied in a culinary context, relates to the way in which inhabitants of the area source food. That is to say, foraged, seasonal, and with a strong connection to its surroundings. This same approach is emulated by Narisawa with an unmistakable French flair (learnt under French culinary legends, Joël Robuchon, Frédy Girardet, and Paul Bocuse), resulting in an avant-garde, sensory menu that transports diners from a lofty, forested mountainside to a misty coastline with the change of a course.
Expect to find dishes such as “Soup of the Soil” and “Essence of the Forest” which reflect their landscape both in terms of ingredients (think poisonous snake broth fished from the waters near Okinawa, or warm sashimi made from Suruga Bay langoustine) and aesthetics.
Haoma is the creation of chef-owner Deepanker Khosla (known as DK) and situated in the heart of Thailand’s capital city. The idea started with an online course in Aquaponics and grew in less than a year into the country’s first urban farm and zero-waste restaurant, with a menu of the highest quality ingredients grown in the restaurant’s organic farm in Chiang Mai or on-site, in its two-storey central greenhouse.
This vast green lung mimics the cyclical nature of a healthy ecosystem, with rainwater collected to grow fish which are fed with food made from the kitchen’s organic solid kitchen waste. The fish excrement enriches the water with nutrients and enzymes which in turn is used to irrigate Haoma’s Aquaponics system, which supports 20 varieties of plants, herbs and edible flowers. Both fish and plants end up on the menu, fashioned into gastronomic works of art with an Indian twist.
Organic, seasonal and wild Scandinavian ingredients are at the heart of this chic, minimalist eatery, located on the 8th floor of the National Football Stadium with panoramic views of Copenhagen. Helmed by Swedish chef extraordinaire, Rasmus Kofoed, Geranium is renowned for an extensive tasting menu underpinned by serious creativity and technical skill, which have earnt it three Michelin stars and a reputation as one of the best gastronomic experiences in the country.
Predominantly plant-based, Geranium places particular emphasis on biodynamic products sourced from its farm, Kiselgården, and other farms within Denmark. This alternative agricultural practice consists of a sustainable, holistic approach that uses organic, locally-sourced materials for fertilising and soil conditioning; views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem; and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles. Experimentation plays a key part with unusual vegetable varieties or those left to sprout bringing new tastes and textures to an already highly-inventive menu. Remaining parts of the vegetables are used in staff meals whilst leftover trimmings are composted.
Culinary innovation and excellence are synonymous with Spain’s Basque Country, which has the highest per capita concentration of Michelin star restaurants in the world (32 in total!). Eneko Atxa’s Azermendi claims three of these plus a coveted new Green Michelin star, with an impressive list of eco-credentials that span everything from the produce on the restaurant’s menu to the state-of-the-art building in which it’s housed.
The restaurant is deeply connected to its surroundings with Basque ingredients playing the starring role. It works closely with local producers who specialise in one area of produce, boosting the recovery of some products whose cultivation had been abandoned and were on the verge of extinction. It also supports the community with a composting centre for the town and works with the local hospital to develop far better-tasting meals at no higher cost. The building itself is constructed from glass, local wood, stone, and recycled materials, and features photovoltaic panels, geothermal energy, rainwater recycling, electric vehicle charging, and much more.
Since its opening in 2005, it has morphed from a straight-forward restaurant into a fully-fledged sustainability centre with a bioclimatic building hosting projects such as a hydroponic crops programme and a germplasm bank, home to more than 400 local seed varieties of vegetables.
Located in the Oslo’s Kvadraturen district, Rest stands as a rejection of modern consumerism with ingenious chefs, Jimmy Øien, Mads Revheim-Skjolden, and Christopher Christiansen, intent on showing that no great ingredient – however unconventional in shape, size or cut – need be left behind. They work with a strict zero-waste policy and acquire 70-80% of the restaurant’s ingredients from surplus food such as vegetables that have been deemed unsellable due to their unique appearances. Even the plates and ceramics are made from leftover clay!
The result is a highly inventive menu prepared and presented with exceptional flair and creativity, and comes with a Green Michelin star of approval. Interiors are pared back and comfortable without being anything of exceptional note, allowing the star of the show – the food – to take its rightful place at centre stage.
Alexa is the Content Manager at Talia Collective. Previously, she worked for a top travel PR firm with a focus on sustainability in London, before moving to Madrid to learn Spanish and cut her teeth as a freelance travel copywriter and PR consultant.