The "world's most sustainable eatery" is on a rooftop in Copenhagen
You have to work for your dinner at Stedsans på ØsterGRO, one of the hottest dinner tickets in Copenhagen. First you have to be lucky enough to get a reservation (It's already booked for the season).
Lloyd Alter/ Stairway to heaven/CC BY 2.0
Then it's a long bike ride from the center of town to Østerbro, and then you have to climb up a spiral fire stair to the roof of an industrial building, which is daunting enough; thinking about having to get down it after a big dinner is scarier.
Lloyd Alter/ looking toward elevator/CC BY 2.0
And then you are in the middle of a 6,000 square foot rooftop farm, a CSA (community supported agriculture) that serves 40 families in the neighborhood. It's got chickens, bees, worms and when the good weather comes, the greenhouse becomes the main dining room for the pop-up restaurant.
Chef and owner Flemming Schiøtt Hansen explains that there is no garbage bin behind the restaurant.
The compost is right behind the kitchen and the hens eat our food scraps and we don't use any tin cans in the kitchen. Our dishwashing machine and cleaning practices use probiotic water, which can be used to water the plants once we get the system set up for it. We prepare our steamed dishes in bamboo steamers. I could keep going on. Of course there are areas in which we could improve, but I believe that we already have a surplus in our climate account.
Lloyd Alter/ elevator dining/CC BY 2.0
In addition to the greenhouse dining room, the freight elevator is also used for dining. I shared a meal in it with other writers and guests of the INDEX Awards. Other than a few posters on the wall, no concessions or changes are made; the lighting level is high enough to do surgery and the benches are hard. Customers who cannot stomach the stairs can get a lift up or down in the elevator, but fortunately nobody needed to while we were dining in it. That would have been odd.
Lloyd Alter/ Mette explains everything/CC BY 2.0
Mette Helbæk explains that in fact, the food we are eating doesn't come from the rooftop; that is all spoken for by the CSA. Instead, they go to the markets.
Lloyd Alter/ third course/CC BY 2.0
Every day we serve six dishes "Italian style" (Big plates, pass them around and serve yourself) We serve the type of food that we ourselves like. The season's best produce, fresh from farm and nature, which we alter as little as possible. The type of things that taste great without having to mess with them too much.
Lloyd Alter/ nicely paired wines/CC BY 2.0
They pair all the dishes with really good wine as well.
Like the Goboats in Copenhagen Harbor, this is the kind of experience that I don't think you could get in North America. The access, up a single narrow fire escape, is limited. The cooking facilities are primitive. The washroom- a single Separett composting toilet, which is was a mess because people didn't know how to use it. (They should give the men a bucket in the corner, really.)
Lloyd Alter/ Garden and greenhouse/CC BY 2.0
But the concept of just moving into an existing rooftop farm, sitting in elevators and greenhouses, the totally minimalist do as little as possible with as little impact as possible, is admirable and works really well. The food was all wonderful. Some reviews have complained that there wasn't enough of it but I did not find that a problem. And there certainly was enough wine.
Lloyd Alter/ Night scene/CC BY 2.0
The restaurant's web address is made of the words "clean simple local" That really does summarize the whole experience. Because you don't have to spend millions on a restaurant interior or fly in the fanciest ingredients to make a great restaurant. Just make it clean, simple and local, with a side order of sustainable, delicious and fun.