Farm-to-table dining is no longer a niche concept. Restaurants around the world are sourcing local produce, minimizing waste, and reducing energy use. Part of the drive to sustainability is because of flavor — fresh, local food simply tastes better than the same food out of a package — and part of the recent resurgence of sustainable practices in restaurants is because it’s what the people want.
While there are locations where local and sustainable food has always been present, this new crop of environmentally conscious restaurants take the concept to the next level. Below, you’ll find places that value sustainability without compromising on flavor and experience.
1. Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, Spain
Azurmendi has three Michelin stars and has twice won the Sustainable Restaurant award from World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Surrounded by forestry in the Basque region of Spain, the hilltop atrium building uses solar panels and a geothermal energy system to keep the restaurant warm in winter and cool in the summer. None of this is hidden away or kept secret. Guests can tour the surrounding greenhouses and rooftop vegetable gardens. Two menus are offered. A “seasonable experience for the five senses,” both menus serve truffled egg and vegetable-based dishes like dry asparagus. Meat and seafood dishes are also on the menus, including dishes like shrimp with vegetable juice and frozen “old” tomato.
Address: Legina Auzoa, s/n, 48195 Larrabetzu, Vizcaya, Spain
2. Relae in København, Denmark
It’s easy to see why Relae has won the hearts and praise of the Michelin Guide reviewers. The restaurant prioritises sustainability in all aspects — from the design of the restaurant to the menu — and it reports back on its efforts in a Sustainability Report. The interior is clean and minimal in the typical Scandinavian style. The tables are zero-waste and made from the entirety of local oak tree, and the chairs are recycled. The design is just one element, as 90 to 100 percent of the food is certified organic at any point and time, and all the produce comes from mostly biodynamic farms that don’t use pesticides or chemicals. Even the filtered drinking water (served in old wine bottles) is reused when it’s collected and used for cleaning the restaurant. The menus serve what’s seasonally available, but if you see the Jerusalem artichoke mousse with passionfruit, order it.
Address: Jægersborggade 41, 2200 København, Denmark
3. Captain’s Galley in Scrabster, Scotland
Captain’s Galley is a seafood restaurant surrounded by the Scrabster Harbour in Scotland. It’s a member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts that Prince Charles is a patron of. The restaurant has a five-pillar value system to respect the food: sustainability, seasonality, traceability, simplicity, and integrity. Owners Mary and Jim Cowie use only local produce and source all the seafood within a 15-mile radius of the restaurant. The short menu constantly changes depending on what’s available, but the risotto of smoked salmon, crab, and aged carnaroli rice is a favorite. If all that seafood makes your sweet tooth ache, get a ginger crème brulee or lemon drizzle cake for dessert.
Address: The Harbour, Scrabster KW14 7UJ
4. Septime in Paris, France
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France is known for its sustainable food, and the country regularly tops lists of most sustainable food systems. Even large cities like Paris have locally focused restaurants. Of all the sustainable places in France, Septime stands out. The menu is 80 percent plant-based, and 99 percent is sourced from France. Beef is too detrimental to the environment for the restaurant, but you will find other meat, all of which is purchased whole, and all parts of the animal are used. On top of all that, the restaurant is working with farmers and other restaurants to save 1,400 seed varieties for Conservatoire du Gout.
Address: 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France
5. Narisawa in Tokyo, Japan
Yoshihiro Narisawa’s eponymous Tokyo restaurant, Narisawa, opened in 2003 and has a relaxed experience that belies the care put into every detail. Narisawa uses the term “innovative satoyama” when speaking about his restaurant. Sato is where people live, and yama means mountain. Put together, satoyama is about the sliver of Earth where people and nature coexist. Narisawa highlights that relationship with the Earth. The seasonal menu is always changing to reflect what’s available, but a dish that has been on the menu since 2010 is Bread of the Forest, which is made using sakura, fermented soybean milk, and burdock root crisps. The butter served with the bread is styled to look like a stone covered in moss.
Address: 2-6-15 Minami Aoyama, Minato 107-0062 Tokyo Prefecture
6. Uncommon Ground in Chicago, Illinois
Uncommon Ground has two locations, one in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago and the other in Lakeview. The Edgewater restaurant is the first organic certified rooftop farm in the US. It grows everything from vegetables to herbs, and the produce is surrounded by a variety of flowers like marigolds and sunflowers. The rooftop also has two beehives, and the honey is used in the food and cocktails. The native bee houses provide a home for local bee populations at risk of extinction. In the summer months, you can to book an open house tour of the roof and take in the sunset while drinking Uncommon Ground’s certified organic Greenstar beer.
Address: 1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL
7. Nomad in Surry Hills, Australia
Australia is one of the most sustainable countries, and that goes for its food as well (just look at how they handle Australians’ avocado obsession). Nomad in Surry Hills, near Sydney, is an example of the best that Australian sustainability can offer. It’s located in a converted warehouse with industrial brick walls and hanging LED lights. The restaurant uses locally harvested and sustainable firewood instead of charcoal. Nomad ethically sources its meat and buys the whole animal, breaking it down in-house and using every part. Other sustainability actions at the restaurant include using only local wine, repurposing used oil into biodiesel fuel, and serving as a solar panel host site for the local community.
Address: 16 Foster Street, Surrey Hills, NSW 2010
8. Mil in the Andes Mountains, Peru
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The chef Virgilio Martinez is no stranger to sustainable restaurants. His restaurant Central in Lima is recognized for its efforts, and his latest venture, Mil, takes everything a step further. Mil sits more than 11,500 feet above sea level near Inca ruins above Cusco. The menu consists of eight courses, or “moments” as the restaurant calls them. Each moment explores how an ingredient was used before the world had a highly unsustainable global economy. Mil works with SINBA to repurpose all organic waste. Sustainability includes the people who grow the food as well. Martinez has a close relationship with the surrounding communities and farmers, and suppliers get 50 percent of harvest profits. This includes chocolate sourced in Quillabamba. Since Peru has a wide range of culinary influences, Mil serves a wide selection of dishes including Lupinus legume, pork belly, avocado and rocoto pepper.
Address: Vía a Moray, Maras, Peru
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