Waste not, want not: Melbourne’s most sustainable restaurants

Ben McMenamin, Grub Food StoreMelbourne chef Ben McMenamin (right) has built a career out of sustainable cooking in some of the city’s best kitchens (Cumulus Inc, Supernormal and Top Paddock to name a few).

Now Ben is working with one of Fitzroy’s most interesting dining spaces, the Grub Food Van, taking inspiration from the venue’s kitchen garden and relaxed greenhouse atmosphere to usher in a more focused all-day menu. Working alongside Grub’s head chef Scott Blomfield, Ben is also using his horticultural skills to further build Grub’s kitchen garden, believing food tastes better when it’s grown the right way.

Determined to live a more sustainable life, Ben has set up a social enterprise called The Social Food Project, organising food events with a focus on sustainable food, education and story telling.

Who better to ask for a guide to Melbourne’s most sustainable restaurants? These are Ben’s top five.

  1. Merri Table

    1. Ceres
    2. Cnr Roberts and Stewart sts, Brunswick East, 03 9389 0166
    3. There are not many cafes in Melbourne that sit on an urban farm. Merri Table is leading the charge in ultra-local food sourcing, with much of it grown on site at the CERES Environment Park. Merri Table has a no take away coffee cup policy to cut down on waste. You either have in or you bring your own. All of the profits from Merri Table go back to support the large number of programs run by CERES, including sustainable urban agriculture, primary and secondary school education field trips, an eco house and the organic grocery and farmers market. It’s great place to have some lunch and a walk around the amazing site.
  2. Feast of Merit

    1. Feast of Merit. Photo: Fiona Storey
    2. 117 Swan St, Richmond, 03 9428 8480
    3. Feast of Merit has positive social outcomes at the core, working for social change in the Melbourne community and abroad. Following the Naga tradition of sharing wealth, 100 per cent of profits go to YGAP to help empower impact entrepreneurs who are improving the lives of people living in poverty. They have a solid farm-to-fork philosophy and make a particular effort to consider ethical supply chains. Feast of Merit also run regular events to promote sustainability initiatives and local change-makers.
  3. Degraves Street

    1. Degraves St, Melbourne
    2. The Degraves Street cafes have partnered with the City of Melbourne to set up an innovative recycling project that aims to divert plastics, paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and organic waste from commercial bins. A core component of this unique system is a closed-loop food-dehydrating unit, which turns organic waste into compost that can be used in the garden. This is a rare example of a centralised urban food composting system, with more than 60 local traders participating. This innovative system demonstrates the power of private and public entities working together and is a great example for other establishments.
  4. Attica

    1. Attica Restaurant :: Hero Interior Photography
    2. 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, 03 9530 0111
    3. Who says fine dining can’t also be sustainable? Attica’s Ben Shewry proves that high-end restaurants and chefs can not only practice sustainability, but also be leaders in the hospitality industry. Ben is a champion of good providence and regularity highlights native and natural ingredients on his menu. Out the back of the kitchen sits a garden where the team is growing 16 different types of mint for one of their signature dishes. Ben is helping to drive the idea that if you want the best flavor, food needs to be produced in the best possible way.
  5. South of Johnston

    1. 46 Oxford St, Collingwood, 03 9417 2741
    2. South of Johnston is leading the charge in renewable energy in the hospitality industry, generating 60 per cent of its electricity from 40 solar panels on the roof. There are very few examples of Melbourne hospitality establishments embracing renewable energy and it takes gumption to be first. South of Johnston owners are also looking to install beehives and a worm farm to help fertilise their herb garden and orchard.

Waste not, want not: Melbourne’s most sustainable restaurants