They may not have the Michelin stars of Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons or the TV profile of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage, but a humble chippy and a restaurant staffed by prison inmates have gained national acclaim on their own terms.
Tomorrow, The Clink restaurant at HMP High Down in Sutton, Surrey, and The Bay Fish & Chips in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, will be honoured alongside celebrity chefs' famous eateries at the inaugural Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) awards in London. Among those being recognised are the former Masterchef champion Thomasina Miers's Mexican street food chain, Wahaca. The family-run restaurant ODE in Shaldon, Devon, will claim the crown of Sustainable Restaurant of the Year.
The SRA rates restaurants on their food sourcing, environmental credentials and societal responsibilities, and has chosen eight winners across seven categories from the 150 eateries it assessed during 2011. Mark Linehan, the managing director of the SRA, said the variety of the winners proved "sustainability is not the preserve of the rich or the London elite".
The Clink, which trains 24 inmates as waiters and chefs at a time at the men's category B prison while providing fine dining for prison staff and the public, will collect the SRA award for innovation. The restaurant uses a wind turbine to power a kitchen range; grows three-quarters of its vegetables and salad on site; uses rainwater butts to water its produce; turns dirty fryer oil into bio diesel for prison vehicles; composts food waste; and sources much of its food from across the prison network – its beef comes from Dartmoor in Devon; pork from East Sutton Park in Kent; apple juice from Blantyre House in Kent. Its furniture is made by prisoners at Frankland prison in County Durham.
The Clink Charity, which runs the restaurant and plans to open more sites at other prisons over the next few years, aims to reduce reoffending rates by placing graduates in the hospitality industry on their release from prison. Forty-nine per cent of prisoners in the UK reoffend within the first year of release; among Clink graduates the figure is less than 20 per cent.
The Bay – the first fish and chip shop to get a rating for sustainability – will win the SRA Special Award thanks to its work championing sustainable fish. Last February, it became the first fish and chip shop to have the Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody for Scottish haddock.
"It is an honour to get fish and chips up alongside River Cottage restaurants and Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir and other prestigious restaurant brands," said Calum Richardson, 38, who has run The Bay with his wife Lindsay, 32, since 2006. The takeaway's other sustainable efforts include using 100 per cent renewable energy, environmentally friendly cleaning products and local suppliers. Mr Richardson admitted that being sustainable was "slightly dearer", but said it was the "right choice".
Richard Harden, the co-publisher of Harden's Guides, said the company was "seriously considering" including SRA ratings in future editions and the association's aims were "to be thoroughly supported". However, he added sustainability was not the top priority for diners using its guides and giving ratings would be "more a push me than pull me". "I think it's more we are trying to suggest to readers that if they are going to be consumers they ought to be intelligent consumers and this is one of the major criteria they ought to consider," he said.
SRA Awards 2012 winners
'Sustainability is not the preserve of the rich'
Sustainable Restaurant of the Year: ODE, Shaldon, Devon
Sustainable Restaurant Group of the Year: Wahaca, London
SRA Award for Sourcing: River Cottage, Devon
SRA Environment Award: Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire
SRA Society Award: Oxo Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie, London, and Friska, Bristol
SRA Award for Innovation: The Clink Restaurant, HMP High Down, Surrey
SRA Special Award for 2012: The Bay Fish & Chips, StonehavenReuse content