Waterhouse restaurant in London is anything but a one-dimensional concept.
Not only does it offer a menu that emphasizes local and seasonal food; it also runs on renewable energy and offers a training program for locals to learn the nuts and bolts of the restaurant business. All this is performed under the auspices of the neighbourhood charitable organization known as the Shoreditch Trust.
In 2008, Shoreditch Trust opened Waterhouse on the banks of the Regents Canal. The Trust is dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Shoreditch neighbourhood and its occupants through a variety of social programs. Waterhouse quickly became the showcase for the Trust’s efforts.
The restaurant, tucked away in a quiet corner of Shoreditch, features an outdoor canal-side terrace and a spare interior aesthetic warmed by wooden tabletops and wall panels. Large picture windows provide a generous view of the canal.
Waterhouse gets much of its electricity from hydroelectric power. Solar panels help heat the water for the kitchen. Energy-efficient electric appliances such as induction cooktops prevail. Waterhouse turns its food scraps over to a “wormery” and a “macerator” and eschews air transport for its ingredients. It asks its vendors to reduce or eliminate all but the most minimal of packaging. Waterhouse also filters and bottles all its own drinking water on-site. All this helps bolster Waterhouse’s claim to be the world’s first carbon-neutral restaurant.
The ever-changing menu is short and affordably upscale, with eclectic influences. Assiette of Bhachu delights shows how each element of the dish compliments one another; another dish of petit pois a la francaise with grilled red pepper, asparagus and goat’s cheese is just fireworks in the mouth, say patrons of the restaurant.
Co-head chef Amrit Bhachu told GreenBeanLondon that his favourite season of the year is autumn: “you’ve got all the berries, you’ve got a load of fruit and you’re just coming into the winter season so you’re getting your squashes and your roots coming up.” Waterhouse sources all of its fish from the British Isles and all of its meat from within a hundred mile radius of the restaurant. Manager Glenda Charles-Locke says, “It is important to keep our lunch prices down with a dish of the day starting from only £5.” Such considerations keep Waterhouse’s cuisine within reach of neighbourhood diners, office workers as well as visitors and tourists
Another progressive aspect of Waterhouse is that it is a charity working to address the causes of disadvantage in the most deprived areas of Shoreditch. The restaurant works in partnership with Shoreditch Trust’s Blue Marble Training Programme, providing opportunities for local people who might not otherwise get them to access careers in food. Many move on to highly placed positions within the food industry, having gained solid job skills and experience at Waterhouse.
Waterhouse isn’t bashful about its role as a showcase project for the Shoreditch Trust. It’s an ambitious project and an unusual one in that it’s run entirely as a non-profit. Waterhouse redefines the concept of local, drawing not just on local food, but utilizing local energy from its solar panels and providing job apprenticeships for local residents. The restaurant isn’t just giving back to the neighbourhood; it aims to become an integral part of it.