Six restaurants leading the green revolution
Fine dining that’s easy on the planet as well as the palate began being recognised in 2020 by green Michelin stars. Food and travel journalist Audrey Gillan selects six green-starred restaurants from around the world that focus on local produce, minimal waste and sustainable gastronomic practices
Ricard Camarena Restaurant, Valencia
Take off to Valencia
Chef Ricard Camarena is entirely self-taught. At his eponymous restaurant, housed in a former hydraulic pump factory, his passion for exalting the essence of vegetables comes to the fore in what he likes to call ‘agriculture à la carte’. Camarena is proud of the restaurant’s farm, where everything is organic and only local varieties are used. He also works with local growers, who produce small, young vegetables in a shape and size that he orders specifically. The restaurant – which also holds two regular Michelin stars – is a modernist cave, seating an average of just 35 people. Camarena invites guests to a worktable at its centre, so that they can learn a little more about his technique and the beauty of his ingredients.
Inver Restaurant, Strachur
Take off to Scotland
On the shore of Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast, with a view of the ruins of Castle Lachlan, this restaurant in a converted croft makes full use of the bountiful natural larder on its doorstep, from vegetables grown without chemicals by nearby farms, to halibut from the Isle of Gigha, to mackerel brought to the kitchen door by the bucketload, to naturally fermented beer made to its own recipe by a local brewery. Chef Pamela Brunton and partner in life and in business, Rob Latimer, work together to bring a restaurant experience that truly sings in terms of flavour, technique and ambience. The couple believe that Inver is part of an ecosystem, where people, plants, animals and landscape connect and thrive together.
King’s Joy, Beijing
Take off to Beijing
Exquisite cuisine using pristine, locally sourced organic produce led this Beijing destination to become the first vegetarian restaurant in the world to gain three Michelin stars, while Gary Yin became the world’s youngest three-star chef. The food explores traditional Chinese recipes but uses ingredients that are low in sugar and fat with no additives or preservatives and promotes environmental protection, working with local producers and farmers. The key principles are for ingredients to be wild if possible, otherwise semi-wild, organic and green, with the emphasis on seasonality, diversity, flavour and colour. King’s Joy provides free tea for those in need on the street outside as well as free porridge on the first and 15th day of the lunar calendar.
Chez Panisse, Berkeley
Take off to California
Chef Alice Waters was at the vanguard of the farm-to-table movement at her restaurant founded more than 50 years ago and it’s still a temple of Californian cuisine today. Alice and her cooks set out to work with small organic farmers growing flavourful heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables or raising heritage breeds of animals. These days they grow 75 per cent of their own produce and the remainder comes from within 50 miles. They have built up a list of ethical local suppliers – ranchers, fishers, orchardists, foragers, farmers, and backyard gardeners – because they believe in regenerative agriculture and taking care of the land. The restaurant has almost zero landfill waste and offers a daily-changing fixed menu of three to four courses of seasonal, pure and unfussy cooking.
Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris
Take off to Paris
Naturalité, according to chef Alain Ducasse, is the Holy Grail of cooking – with the triptych of vegetables, cereals and fish taking centre stage. At his three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, the focus is on a diet that’s in tune with nature and better for the health. Here, the whole approach to gastronomy has been reassessed and is more respectful to the environment. Vegetables are grown at the Grand Parc de Versailles and picked every morning. Other ingredients come from small producers living close to the land they farm or the sea they fish, all of them people who work with and respect the rhythm of seasons and tides. A team of chefs, led by Romain Meder, use what Ducasse says is a “great deal of delicacy to bring nature to the table”.
A Flower Blossom on the Rice, Seoul
Take off to South Korea
Restaurant owner Song Jung-eun believes ‘you are what you eat’ and that food is directly related to the body and mind, so she insists on using organic, eco-friendly and pesticide-free produce from local farms. Beautiful ingredients come together to resemble “a flower blooming on the dining table”. The signature dish here, bojagi bibimbap, features rice topped with five different sautéed vegetables, wrapped in an egg omelette, tied with a seaweed ribbon and adorned with a flower blossom. Jang – Korean fermented soya sauce – is handmade without chemicals and the restaurant often uses ‘ugly’ produce (lower grade crops dismissed for uneven shapes), which allows farmers to sell often unwanted produce and means that customers pay less.