Even if you choose to only use organic produce and free range meat in your own kitchen, it can be difficult to know what you are getting when you dine out.
Yet an increasing amount of restaurants are considering how to be more sustainable in their approach to food – whether it be growing herbs and vegetables onsite or carefully selecting ethically sourced meat.
Here are 5 restaurants leading the sustainable way in Australia:
Co-Op Dining is all about working with small, passionate food producers to bring organic and biodynamic meals to your plate. Co-Op’s aim is for diners to feel comfortable while they experience a regional menu that is based on foraged foods, largely from Western Australia. All Co-Op’s farmers are small, family run and responsible farmers who are passionate about their produce. That means no big commercial companies, corner cutting or bad deals for the base line food producers.
You can choose from a 5 or 10 course ‘pasture to plate’ degustation menu, along with matching wines if you so choose. Co-Op’s modern dining aims to be fresh, healthy and natural. Expect some exciting inclusions like stinging nettle or indigenous foods like wattle seed.
Co-Op has been recognised by the culinary elite and was awarded both One Star in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide 2014, as well as receiving the title of Best New Restaurant in the Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence WA 2013/2014.
Biota Dining, New South Wales
Dining at Biota is a feast for all the senses. This restaurant focuses on artisan produce and extracting the taste and aroma from the plants and animals it uses. Biota has a commitment to seasonal produce that supports local farmers, while growing many of their own ingredients.They have a glasshouse with over 40 varieties of seed imported from France, the Netherlands and Australia so your meals will always come with fresh shoots, cresses and seedlings.
Biota offers degustation menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses. To begin with, you could find yourself with smoked roe, scampi, charcoal and sea lettuce. A main may be deer with autumn foliage, toasted chestnuts and grass, while dessert find see you munching on wild honey, brioche, milk crumbs and weeds.
Biota is about so much more than taste, though. It aims to tell you a story about the land, seasons and produce with every meal. The chefs are storytellers that present you with their tales of hunting, growing and gathering with everything you see before you.
Bishop Sessa, New South Wales
While the owners may have made up a 15th Century Italian bishop reputed to have given food hampers to the poor to explain the name of their restaurant, they have continued on the legend of the restaurant’s imaginary namesake by embracing organic and ethical eating.
Tucked away in the ultra cool suburb of Surry Hills, it is a restaurant that lives by the nose-to-tail mantra – use as much of the animal as possible, let little go to waste.
Head chef Paul Cooper has an impressive network of local farmers and growers that he sources from, and he carves the meat himself. The restaurant shows off local produce in the form of pork from Swallow Rock Reach, lamb from New England and Wagyu from Gundooee Organics in Dunedoo. The seafood is sustainable, and many of the wines are from small, lesser known makers. Expect dishes like Melanda Park farm pork that is roasted, along with choucroute, caramelised apple puree and cider sauce.
Yet Bishop Sessa doesn’t come with the extravagant prices you’d expect from such lavish meals. In fact, co-owner Erez Gordon explained that he prefers casual dining where it’s about delicious food and having a good time with family and friends. “There’s no harbour view, there is no million dollar fit out, there’s no expensive cutlery or expensive crockery,” he said, “but there is a genuine dining experience.”
Celsius, South Australia
Celsius was opened by chef royalty Ayhan Erkoc and his farmer brother Kasim, and the two ensure a perfect balance between fine dining meals and local, sustainable produce that comes straight from the source. The restaurant has seen many accolades since its inception – Ayan won the title of both 2010 and 2011 Chef of the Year, while the restaurant was awarded Adelaide’s Best Contemporary Restaurant and recently won one star from Gourmet Traveller 2014.
Celsius is all about modern Australian food, with much of it coming from the Erkoc’s family market at Murray Bridge. This means that unusual parts of the fruits and vegetables are used, such as flowers, stems and roots. With a dish of kingfish you might find peas, leaves, tendrils and flowers that have been collected that morning. The menu is always changing to suit the season and everything is fresh. It’s exciting, sustainable fine dining at its best.
Esquire is one of Queensland’s best restaurants and it is built upon the philosophy ‘take only what you need’. The restaurant offers a constantly changing degustation menu that depends on the local produce on offer, which is hand picked.
Executive chef Ryan Squires has centred the menu around the charcoal fire pit, which uses Australian charcoal and is designed to cook meals evenly and cleanly, allowing the flavours of each ingredient to shine. Expect gorgeous, grilled seafood like Moreton Bay squid, rainbow trout and ocean prawns – all of which come from local fisherman.
Esq, the casual side of Esquire, is designed to be a relaxed space where you can chill out and enjoy your meal to the full extent. There may be impeccable service and stunning crockery, but there’s no pretension and certainly no overpricing that leaves you feeling heavy in the stomach but light in the wallet. You can enjoy Berkshire pork gyoza, seasoned chicken wings or a range of desserts for just $12.
Next time you’re looking to dine out, try supporting the local farmers and producers by selecting an ethical restaurant. If you like the sound of one of the above restaurants, they are all participating venues in the Good Food Gift Card program. It turns out that amazing meals really can help to make the world a better place.
About the author
Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.