Is there a vegetable ‘arms race’ going on in the TV and book-writing chef world? Arthur Potts Dawson, formerly of Acorn House restaurant and The People’s Supermarket, is about to release his own book, Eat Your Veg. He seems just a touch miffed that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was able to get his veg book out faster. Like Hugh, and Jamie Oliver, Arthur is an alumnus of the River Café. The self-confessed ‘veg-head’ says it has always been at the heart of his cooking, with meat being something on the side.
Your favourite place to eat in London?
Trullo, on Highbury Corner. It’s young, it’s sexy, it’s funky. The chef has come from Moro; his cooking has a Middle Eastern, Spanish, North African-type River Café slant. It’s a very seasonal, small menu. Great veggies, fresh fish: they’re grilling whole sardines, lemon sole. I’ve been there about 15 times.
Your earliest/oldest London food memory?
At 16 I got a job at Kensington Place. It was the place to be. Princess Diana and Joan Collins were in. It was all morel mushrooms and whole geese coming in from France, and tarte citron. London in 1987 had this cloak of Frenchness draped over it.
The best meal you’ve ever eaten in the capital?
A set lunch at The Square: scallop mousse stuffed inside a zucchini flower and cooked in a bamboo steamer. My friend and I just looked at each and said: ‘that was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.’ And it was only £25.
Your favourite food stall?
Tony Booth, the mushroom man in Maltby Street. His stall is full of British produce: huge puffballs, wonderful penny buns, brilliant trompettes de la mort. He creates a market that means his puffball man can go out and spend a week just picking puffballs…
London’s best food bargain? (shop, café or restaurant)
Rubies in the Rubble (chutneys and jams made from surplus produce). I think the price is fair but it’s a wonderful product. It’s certainly sustainable and community-driven. Also the sausage man in Chapel Market, Angel is good value and I think the meat is really good quality.
Your top tip for anyone looking to eat out ethically and sustainably in London?
We have to be careful not to be trapped by greenwash. I struggle to find somewhere in London that I can trust on a sustainable level – it needs to be a commitment from everybody in the business – from the manager to the chef to the kitchen porter…Who’s doing that at the moment? Am I allowed to say I don’t know?
If there was one thing you could change about food or eating in London, what would it be?
Cut out the middleman and deliver food direct to consumers or restaurants. Develop relationships and a network of electric vehicles dropping off produce from in and around the London area. The city needs to address its food supply, even if it can produce 10 per cent of the food it consumes, that’s millions of tonnes, imagine if it could be achievable in city farms and back gardens.
What do you think could be the next big trend or issue in terms of sustainable food in London?
I’m working on it! It’s going to be possibly the most sustainable restaurant London has ever seen. Watch this space.
By Clare Hill