Buzzwords like eco-friendly lifestyle, small carbon footprint and ethical eats are everywhere, but where exactly should we go if we want to eat good food and do good deeds for the environment at the same time?
Here are some highlighted spots that promote farm-to-table dining, the reduction of food waste and the cultivation of mindful practices.
The farm-to-table movement has been at the forefront of the dining scene for years. It simply refers to the direct relationship between restaurants and local farmers. A good example: on average, an 18-wheel semi-truck travels 2km per litre of petrol. The conscious choice of opting for local food instead of imported lessens the amount of diesel fuel needed to carry farm produce over long distances.
On top of the environmental benefits, local food also comes with health benefits. Farm-to-table food is always fresh, usually harvested and delivered directly to the restaurant. As the vegetables are not processed or contaminated, we can absorb most of the minerals and nutrients present in them without the slightest worry of contamination.
Several HK restaurants have adopted the practice of doing good for the environment and their customers:
Linguini Fini uses produce supplied by Homegrown Foods to craft their popular homemade pizza and pasta. They have also launched a commitment to nose-to-tail cuisine, utilising every part of an animal's body and leaving nothing to waste. Posto Pubblico is another restaurant partnering with Homegrown; this Italian-American eatery serves farm-to-table food in a warm, family-operated setting.
Locofama and Sohofama are more examples of local businesses committed to working closely with Hong Kong's farms to provide organic fruits and vegetables, grown without the use of pesticides, in order to deliver delicious, healthy dishes to the mindful eating community in Hong Kong.
Fresca prides itself on having one of the smallest carbon footprints of all local restaurants. The team have their own private garden and farm in Hong Kong, and the ingredients are harvested daily and brought directly to their shop in Central.
Maximal Concepts is a restaurant group that not only creates insanely popular eateries but has also always maintained its commitment to their original ethos of operating strong ethical sourcing practices. This appreciation of provenance permeates through each of their restaurants, from the fine dining Mott 32 to the humane and sustainably sourced meat specialist Blue, as well as their more casual venues like Limewood and Brickhouse.
Foodie Forks 2017 Readers' Choice Food Hero Nate Green of Rhoda prides himself on responsibly sourcing animals that have led happy lives and then uses every inch of them to craft his innovative dishes. His daily-changing menu is led by what he has in the larder at any given time and what beautiful bounty he can make from it all.
Bones & Blades describe themselves as a butcher for conscious carnivores, making the connection between the farm, the meat and what we eat. Their philosophy embraces sustainable farming practices and farmers' ethics, sourcing grass-fed animals from some of the best family-owned farms around the world and then championing each and every cut, especially the ones less well known than those at the premium places.
The Peninsula Hong Kong have created a 'Naturally Peninsula' range of dishes focusing on healthy, nutritious cuisine from locally harvested sources. Their aim is help to conserve marine resources while offering a high-quality menu produced with the finest natural ingredients.
Mindful Menus and Practices
In light of diners' increasing environmentally conscious mentality, local restaurants are gradually improving their practices, no matter in giant or baby steps. Foodie Forks 2017 Ethical Eats Readers’ Choice winner HOME – Eat to Live features a plant-based menu, providing vegan, gluten-free and raw options. The team have embarked on a sustainable journey to lower their carbon footprint by carefully sourcing ingredients, using eco-friendly packaging and conserving the water supply.
Another Foodie Forks winner this year (in the Food Hero category), Arcane is one of the best modern European restaurants in town. This culinary star launched a seven-course meat-free Monday menu in January, advocating for the practice of going veggie every now and then.
Beef & Liberty keep vegetarian options on their menu and make a donation to The Nature Conservancy for every meat-free burger ordered, as well as purifying, bottling and carbonating their own drinking water on site.
Indonesian lifestyle establishment Potato Head has launched a new cocktail menu that follows the Indonesian cultural principle of fully utilising an ingredient, minimising waste in the process. Take a coconut, for example – the coconut water will be used in cocktails and mocktails, and then its husk will be smoked and its flesh used for spirit infusion.
A few blocks away from HOME is MANA!, which serves only organic, plant-based dishes like wraps and salads. MANA! also uses compostable and biodegradable packaging and even pays a truck company to transport organic food waste to the New Territories, where it's composted for farming purposes.
Green Common is not only a completely plant-based supermarket, but it also has a deli in two of its locations (LANDMARK and Harbour City) where they have introduced the renowned Beyond Burger that looks, cooks and tastes like fresh ground beef yet is completely vegan and cholesterol, antibiotic, hormone and GMO free. They are on a mission to show how tasty and diverse plant-based dishes can be.
The food waste problem in Hong Kong is worse than ever. Over 3,600 tonnes of food waste are generated on a daily basis, which could fill up 129 double-decker buses or three Olympic-size swimming pools. The F&B industry has put a lot of effort into solving, or at least alleviating, this depressing problem.
Grassroots Pantry in Sheung Wan has taken action at the food-ordering stage. They streamline orders and order ingredients in small batches. The restaurant has said that the idea of ordering extra food for fear of running out of raw materials is old school. This veggie eatery also adopts the principle of fully utilising ingredients. Every part of a vegetable is used – peels go into stock, beetroot ends are used to make gnocchi, carrot tops are pickled or stir-fried, for instance.
Foodie Forks 2017 Ethical Eats Editors' Choice winner Food Savior is an online platform that helps restaurants to advertise food that is made fresh but is not sold the same day. The food will be thrown out unless a customer decides to do something for Planet Earth and buy it.
Black Sheep Restaurants is a hospitality group that boasts a portfolio of 12 restaurants and one bar, including Foodie faves Carbone and Maison Libanaise. The team have kick-started several shout-worthy ethical practices. Black Sheep Restaurants collect cooking oil for the making of biodiesel, have seafood delivered in eskies, eliminating the need for polystyrene boxes, and arrange regular pickups for glass and cardboard recycling.
And even the big boys of the F&B scene have started to get involved, which will make a huge impact when rolled out across all the chains' locations. Starbucks have begun a ’Think Blue Act Green’ campaign with WWF–Hong Kong, launching a new sustainable seafood range, encouraging customers to make conscious choices and take simple steps to changing their eating habits. They've also created a handy oceanic cutlery set for customers to tote around with them, rather than using disposable tableware, with after-cost proceeds going to the WWF.
We realise there are an abundance of unsung heroes still out there; do you know a restaurant that deserves to be on this list? Send us the details and we will continue to update this article showcasing those who are doing good things for the planet while taking care of our taste buds at the same time.