The planet is burning, the ice caps are melting, and we're all going to die. Problem is: you're still hungry. And if you – like us – genuinely do care about the earth but also want to have a bit of fun during the limited time we've all got on it, you've probably had a bit of a moral crisis about going out to eat and drink. Is it okay to spend money on a nice meal? Is it okay if said nice meal is from a sustainable restaurant? Can you really warrant going out when that act comes with such a high risk of eating a piece of meat that hasn't been hand-reared by a Jersey farmer named Malcolm with kind blue eyes and rough hewn hands? We know that appetite-related anxiety all too well.
It's one of the reasons why we have our annual Foodism 100: an awards show that celebrates the venues and businesses creating positive change in London's food scene. We also have guides jam-packed with sustainable recipes and ethical fast food joints on the site. That positive change can mean everything from environmental sustainability through careful sourcing and transparent supply chains to societal sustainability by using food and drink to raise funds for charities combating homelessness in London. It's also one of the reasons why we've written this list of London's best sustainable restaurants. Y'know, to help ease your guilt and please your stomach.
This guide includes sustainable restaurants in London such as Native and Petersham Nurseries, where you can farm-sourced plates of protein, as well as laidback locations that do cracking (and ethical) coffee like The Clerkenwell Kitchen. There's even a few eco-friendly pubs pitter-pattered on the list, too. Because God knows watching the news at the moment makes us want a stiff drink. Here's our guide to the best sustainable restaurants in London.
16 of the best sustainable restaurants in London
1. The Clerkenwell Kitchen
27-31 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0AT
Committed to traditional farming methods and fair trade, Clerkenwell Kitchen works exclusively with producers that match share its values, which means you can expect to see dishes featuring Jack Coleman coffee beans, Rookery Farm eggs, and lamb and game from Chiltern Farm. It's open for breakfast, lunch and coffee, and the daily-changing menu of six choices revolves around sandwiches, tarts and soups. Chef and proprietor Emma Miles has worked hard to ensure your every sustainable desire is well-catered for. Including an outside catering service available at your chosen location so you can show your mates just how free-range you really are.
2. The Duke of Cambridge
30 St Peter's Street, N1 8JT
When the founder of The Duke of Cambridge and the founder of Riverford Organic met, something magical happened. Something magical called: 'love'. Geetie Singh married Guy Watson in June 2014 and the rest, as they say, is history. While we're pleased the two have stuck together in sickness and in health, what our stomachs have been more interested in is the ensuing partnership that was born between two of our favourite sustainable businesses. The organic Islington pub became the perfect complements to Riverford's Field Kitchen in Devon – both venues celebrating exceptional organic cooking and only using ingredients of impeccable provenance. Our picks from the award-winning pub's menu? Pollock with cretan fava and the glorious Bath organic cheese plate.
Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC2R 1LA
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Spring's daily-changing menu of seasonal British food is its main draw. River Test trout with grilled cucumbers and béarnaise? Carabinero with fino butter? A plate of mortadella? Yes, yes, and oh God yes. Australian chef Skye Gyngell (previously of The French House and Petersham Nurseries) has succeeded in turning Spring into one of London's most remarkable restaurants. Not only in terms of its commitment to sustainable produce but also just in the sheer quality of the food coming out of Spring's kitchen. Gyngell has also introduced a plastic campaign aimed at eradicating the use of plastic containers in the restaurant, and other single use plastics, with the aim to be one of London's first plastic free restaurants by 2019. We wish her the best of luck.
4. The Petersham
2 Floral Street, WC2E 9FB
Emulating the slow food philosophy of "Good, Clean and Fair" that Petersham Nurseries Richmond was founded on, The Petersham focuses on using the finest seasonal produce and quality ingredients. It's that adherence to traditions, and excellent cooking, that makes this Covent Garden restaurant a must-visit for any person with a conscious as voracious as their appetite. Gael and Francesco Boglione's idyllic vision is properly brought to life within the restaurant's comforting walls. Even if you can't afford a lunch or dinner (sustainability doesn't always come cheap!), you should at the very least nab an organic coffee or loose-leaf tea along with a slice of cake or freshly baked pastry from the attached deli. Need a power up but not in the area? Try one of Foodism's top-ranked best coffees in London, instead.
10 Orsman Road, N1 5QJ
Hackney's Waterhouse restaurant is both a vital part of the Shoreditch Trust group and a firm favourite of the many sustainable restaurants in London. Placed lovingly on the banks of Regent's Canal, Waterhouse hosts the Shoreditch Trust's Blue Marble Training – a programme that provides chef training and support for young people who have faced challenging life circumstances. The Waterhouse embodies a positive ethos in the food industry that we encourage everyone to get behind. Besides, it's not exactly hard to champion a restaurant that does a banging buttermilk paprika fried chicken burger now, is it? If that sounds like a bit of you, read our guide to the best burgers in London - yep.
32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU
Native is one of the city's wildest restaurants. We don't mean that punters are downing six Pornstar Martinis and dancing on tabletops. They're definitely not. Native simply highlights the country's best wild foraged food and game in a laid back, user-friendly environment. A meal at Native is the ideal way to adventure through the British seasons. Ivan Tisdall-Downes' tasting menu is designed to shine a spotlight on whatever's currently flourishing in the fields, forests and coastlines of the UK. The menu is constantly changing to ensure that the key seasonal ingredients of the moment are always the stars of the show. Alongside, of course, a selection of deliciously ethical meat. Dishes may contain shot.
153 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
Cub is an innovative bar and restaurant from World's 50 Best-winning bartender Ryan Cheriyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) and Brighton-turned-London chef Douglas McMaster, which serves cocktails and sharing plates with an emphasis on cutting out food waste at every turn. Carefully considered ingredients, expertly created drinks and sustainable methods in the kitchen mean this Hoxton Street haunt is a location that will soothe your palate and your simmering anxieties about the planet's impending doom at the same time. Cub's set menu (which is available for the whole table at £67 per person) is probably the best way to experience all this East London outlet has to offer. You had us at nettle with sweet bell turnip and sea truffle.
8. The Three Stags
67-69 Kennington Road, SE1 7PZ
As one of the original SRA members, The Three Stags employs an ethical business ethos wherever possible. That means: the fish is line caught from day boats; all the meat is sourced from free range farms; and even the white rum they import from Jamaica uses local molasses that donate a percentage of profits to turtle conservation. It doesn't exactly hurt that The Three Stags does a cracking, reasonably priced roast and an extremely well-stocked, well-kept cellar. When it comes to sustainable pubs it's hard to beat a premises that keeps its very own beehives on the roof to produce some of the best local urban honey around.
9. The Culpeper
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
The Culpeper is how you make sustainability cool as fuck. This isn't red chinos or fuddy duddy tweed-clad farmers telling you about the dangers of mass-farming. This is an East London restaurant and pub that leads by example, which is why it's one of the best sustainable restaurants in London. The predominantly local wine list boasts a selection of bottles from Davenport Vineyards, who grow and produce their wine in Kent and East Sussex, and Tillingham, a natural and biodynamic wine producer based in East Sussex. The Culpeper also works very closely with the fruit and vegetable seasons to make sure everything comes from as close to the venue as possible. Especially in the case of the produce grown on The Culpeper's rooftop that's used on both the food and cocktail menus. Workshops on the rooftop garden also provide you with the chance to learn all about natural fermentation and fresh food preservation. Neat.
157 Lordship Lane, SE22 8HX
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Farm shop and restaurant Franklins has been selling and serving seasonal British produce since 1999. It's a restaurant that's remained an essential in the new millennia, plying East Dulwich residents with West Mersea rock oysters and a plethora of seasonal dishes. Locally farmed vegetables and rare-breed meats make up the brunt of the menu. From the only-organic eggs to the Tuxford & Tebbutt stilton, sustainability is perennially at the forefront of what Franklins is trying to achieve. Filling you up with an excellent meal is just an added bonus.
11. The Brigade Bar + Kitchen
139 Tooley Street, SE1 2HZ
Good food and good deeds can be found aplenty at The Brigade Bar + Kitchen, making it hands down one of the best sustainable restaurants in London. BBK keeps things simple with British seasonal produce and a small international wine list while being conscious of the restaurant's environmental impact by always trying to buy ethically and sustainably wherever possible. It's important to remember that issues of sustainability aren't just confined to ingredients either. The sustainable flow of employment in the restaurant industry and larger societal problems that are also on The Brigade Bar + Kitchen's radar. The Brigade and Beyond Food Foundation have trained hundreds of apprentices into jobs and given thousands of homeless people a new set of skills. It's a model that means each participant can move on to sustainable employment equipped with the ability, skills, and confidence required to tackle the demands of a culinary workplace. Which is fantastic.
12. Daylesford Café
Daylesford farm is one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK, so it should be rather unsurprising news to learn that its cafés are dedicated to growing, producing and cooking seasonal, organic food. Offering everything from artisan cheeses and breads from Daylesford's own creamery and bakery to fruit and vegetables grown in the Market Garden and grass-pastured meat from its Cotswold farm – Daylesford's London farm shops provides pretty much everything you might need for your weekly organic shop. The cafés are open all day and its the always-changing daily special menus – filled with dishes made with fresh organic ingredients like grass-pastured breeds and proper free-range chickens sourced straight from the farms – that makes eating at Daylesford so special.
13. Grow Hackney
98c Wallis Road, E9 5LN
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Grow is an independent and self-organised eco-system of studios and creative spaces with bars and a kitchen created out of an old sausage factory by the River Lea in Hackney Wick. We'll be damned if it doesn't sound like the most bohemian East London concept in existence, but we'll also be damned if it doesn't sound like a grand idea. A seasonal menu of everything from Middle Eastern tacos (served with hummus, sumac, pickled cabbage, molasses red onions, herb sauce, harissa and rocket) to vegan sharing platters underline how you don't need gastronomic science to create a good meal. Combine that with a few glasses of organic Wild Thing Sauvignon Blanc and you'll be wonderfully reminded that you don't need to hurt the planet to have a good time either.
14. La Goccia
1 Floral Court, WC2E 9FB
Italian aperitivo and cicchetti (small plates) are La Goccia's bread and butter. As the little sister of The Petersham, La Goccia is a little bit frisky, a little bit al fresco and does a whole lot of good when it comes to sourcing its ingredients. Grazing plates of fried courgette flowers aren't just a pretty way to start dinner: they're delicate, grease-free little flavour bombs that are picked straight from the Petersham farm. An equally adept starter is the Haye Farm-sourced fried chicken – a portion of poultry so crisp and juicy that you might never be able to look at your local Morley's in the eye ever again. It's not just the chicken and courgette offcuts that are sustainably attained, mind. All of La Goccia's poultry, livestock, eggs, vegetables and fruit come directly from Haye Farm. Eat your way through La Goccia's menu and you'll find yourself bombarded with the best possible quality ingredients – a result of La Goccia close work with small and independent producers, including both the Boglione family farm and line-caught fish bought directly off the dock from Cornish fisherman.
15. The Spread Eagle
224 Homerton High Street, E9 6AS
As of January 2018, The Spread Eagle became London's first vegan pub. Which is, y'know, a pretty big deal when you take into account the ever-growing number of vegans in the capital. Being a vegan pub, however, is far from as simple as saying "you're trying out veganism now" requires more than just serving not-zarella sticks and chickpea melt sandwiches. All of The Spread Eagle's food, drinks, fixtures and fittings are plant-based and sourced sustainably where possible. That's dedication. Thankfully, The Spread Eagle doesn't sacrifice any flavour for its ethics. Mainly because Club Mexicana are in the pub's kitchen wanging out 100% vegan and 100% delicious Mexican-inspired street food. Pulled jackfruit carnitas and beer battered tofish have never looked – or tasted – so good.
16. Studio Olafur Eliasson Kitchen at The Terrace Bar
Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
Running in conjunction with Olafur Eliasson's exhibition at Tate Modern that addresses urgent social and environmental issues and impact humans have on the world, this menu collaboration between Studio Olafur Eliasson Kitchen and Tate Eats is running until January 2020. The vegetarian menu here consists of dishes made from local, seasonal and (mostly) organic ingredients which have been chosen to minimise CO2 emissions. Find hearty dishes made with crème fraiche from Northiam Dairy; ferments and pickles from Vadasz Deli; organic fruit and vegetables from Good Earth Growers; British cheese from Paxton Whitefield; and a wealth of other sustainable sources. The team have additionally curated and calculated the CO2 emissions for each dish on the menu and worked to reduce the carbon footprint of eating out. Intense? A little. But head chef, Jon Atashroo is dedicated to the cause and making us more mindful about where the food we eat actually comes from.