Photo: Autumn vegetable plate – Ethos Eat Drink, Hobart
Clean, green dining scene
Author | Alecia Wood
“It’s a nice moment to be doing what we’re doing – there’s a dining audience interested in far more than just how something tastes,” says restaurant manager Chloe Proud of Hobart’s Ethos Eat Drink.
She’s talking about the trend toward more environmentally conscious dining, a focus emerging for restaurant-goers and hospitality professionals alike.
Ethos’ dedication to reducing its environmental impact ranges from its heritage space now filled with reclaimed décor – a restored 19th Century building fitted with low-energy consumption appliances – to its carefully selected local suppliers. Take Sandy and Paul, a couple who offer all sorts of radishes from their plot near Cygnet, just outside Hobart. Proud laughs at diners’ instant outrage at the $19 price tag for their signature braised, baked and raw radish dish, but it’s a shock that quickly fades – “Suddenly their eyes light up and it’s like those radishes are the best thing they’ve ever tasted!”
While such a committed model may not be achievable for most, Ethos head chef Iain Todd explains there is a range of easy-to-introduce changes. “The big one for me is that you recycle your produce boxes and ask for things not to come in plastic bags,” he says, adding that purchasing seasonal ingredients from local producers and growing herbs on site are other small-scale options.
Looking to chef Matt Stone and designer Joost Bakker – the duo behind Perth restaurant Greenhouse and its waste-free pop-ups that have so far visited Sydney and Melbourne – Todd is hopeful the trend will last beyond the hype with such local talent pioneering creative sustainability initiatives. “They’re the real leaders in the area in Australia right now,” he says.
Can’t make it to Tassie? There are plenty of restaurants and cafés cropping up with their own kitchen gardens, rooftop beehives, foraged ingredients and more. Here’s a handful of places to check out around the country.
Zavaglia Orchard zucchini flowers, Willowbrae Chevre Cheese Farm, Swallow Rock Organics potatoes – these are the Hills District and Hawkesbury River Valley producers supplying ingredients to 42 Bannerman Trattoria e Bar northwest of Sydney. It’s an Italian family affair here, where a casual atmosphere is key in the converted private home.
VIC | Silo by Joost
They came in 2008 with a pop-up and made a comeback for good in 2012. It’s all in the name at this eco-friendly café – open for breakfast, lunch and ‘evening bites’, they mill their own flour daily, making its way into sandwiches and baked goods.
SA | GoodLife Pizza
With outposts in downtown Adelaide, North Adelaide & Glenelg, this pizza haunt ticks all the boxes – ingredients are organic, seasonal and local, and the restaurant is certified by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia. Modern toppings are their thing – think free range roasted duck with shiitake mushroom and spring onion ginger jam – as well as hand-made dips.
ACT | Grazing at Gundaroo
They love their local food and wine, and you will too after visiting this cosy regional restaurant, about half an hour from downtown Canberra. Built in 1865, Grazing set up shop in the historic Royal Hotel with a focus on modern European dishes. Grab a table near the fire and feast on hearty meals, like the smoked Tumut rainbow trout terrine with cucumber salad, fresh horseradish and coriander seed pastry tuile, using ingredients from their impressive chef’s garden.
QLD | Swampdog Fish & Chips
Good for you, good for me, good for the sea – that’s the motto at Swampdog, where the menu prepares varieties of seafood classed as sustainable by the Australian Marine Conservation Society or the Australian Conservation Foundation as much as possible. Get your hands on some local mackerel – crumbed or grilled – served up in biodegradable packaging.
WA | Cullen Restaurant
At the Cullen Wines estate, Cullen Restaurant shares the same sustainability principles as its winemaking owners. Pairing local produce with biodynamic, organic goods from its on-site garden, the seasonal menu serves up the likes of goat’s cheese soufflé with fresh pea, spring onion, chervil and rocket pesto come springtime.
Alecia Wood is a Sydney-based freelance food and sustainability writer, with work published in ABC Radio National Online, ABC Organic Gardener online, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food and Broadsheet Sydney. Passionate about encouraging consumers to support and shape a more sustainable, secure food system, she is also a co-leader of the Youth Food Movement’s Sydney chapter and in 2013 completed the Centre for Sustainability Leadership’s annual fellowship program.