Green Eating Goes Mainstream: Bordeaux Quay Up and Running

We reported here back in May on Bordeaux Quay, a new eco-gastronomic venture in the UK city of Bristol (also home to Cafe Maytreya, a vegetarian's paradise which we reported on here). Whilst we may have been wrong about Bordeaux Quay being the first carbon-neutral restaurant in the country, we certainly weren't wrong about the sheer scope of chef Barny Houghton's environmental ambitions. The project has been very successful in raising the profile of local food — the Times newspaper for example ran an interview with Barny Houghton in which he took the reporter to a muddy field in Somerset to see his supply of pork. The £2.7m project is now up and running and hosts a restaurant, brasserie, bar, deli, bakery and cookery school. Bordeaux Quay is promising to source staple ingredients from organic and sustainable farms within a 50-mile of Bristol, with other ingredients (Bristol isn't known for its olives!) coming from producers that they know and trust well. As if this were not enough, the retrofit of the old dockside warehouse in which Bordeaux Quay is based was done to strict ecological standards, including salvage and reuse of existing materials and the installation of a rainwater harvesting system that now flushes the toilets. Being dedicated Treehugges, we felt it was our duty to check this place out. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the planet If the night we visited was anything to go by, then the word is already out about Bordeaux Quay. The bar, brasserie and restaurant were all busy, whilst not seeming overcrowded. The service was prompt, friendly and efficient, and the views across the docks are lovely. The overall aesthetic is of a smart, modern, mainstream establishment. There are subtle signs of the environmental ethics behind the project, but these are discreet and low key. The menu, for example, states the restaurant's local sourcing policy, and leaflets in the reception give details of the building's energy efficiency and other green features. There are even free copies of "the good veal guide" which should be sure to spark off heated dinner table debate between the carnivores and herbivores. The overall impression, however, is of a place for eating and enjoying yourself, not for lecturing you about food miles and carbon footprints.

The food was of a consistently high quality, showcasing excellent ingredients with minimal fuss. The style follows "simple, authentic, provincial European traditions" which means there is very little of the showy presentation that you might see in other restaurants. This "back to basics" approach may take a little getting used to for some, but in many ways makes a refreshing change. Dishes on the menu included summer squash soup with rosemary and lemon, fillet of Cornish mackerel with green olive tapenade, courgette and basil tart with pink fir apple potato salad, and roast partridge with pancetta, red cabbage and swede. Desserts included damson crème brûlée and valrhona chocolate truffle cake. The local theme was strong, but not fundamentalist. Joselito Gran Reserva ham, from Spain, was included as a starter with no apology — just a little note explaining that this was "arguably the best ham in the world. Uniquely delicious", though at a price tag of more than twice what the other starters cost, you would hope it is something very special!

Overall the cost was comparable to any other establishment of this quality in central Bristol. We left happy and well-fed, with just a hint of smugness at having eaten excellent, local, sustainable food with a guilt-free conscience. It's a tough life being a treehugger

Stay tuned for an interview with chef Barny Houghton which will be appearing on Treehugger in the next week or two.

[Written by: Sami Grover]