How Eco-Conscious Can One East London Cocktail Bar Be?

Hint: They Actually Forage All Of Their Ingredients From The Urban Wilds Of London

This is Scout. The fact I was wearing an old fishing jacket – which was not even my boyfriend’s, but my boyfriend’s mother’s – didn’t seem to deter anyone in this bar. In fact if there’s anywhere I’d be welcome on a Friday night in Shoreditch with a Raggedy-Anne fly pin stuck to my collar it would probably be here. This is where I had the most interesting and flavoursome cocktail I have ever tasted – the ‘Lemon Balm’. Its ingredients were foraged in Norfolk .. I’ll just give you a second to digest that – the ingredients used for all the food and drink made in this cocktail bar are foraged by its very own team of professional foragers who travel Britain to gather their produce the old-fashioned way – by hand in rural woods, pastures and fields, as well as the urban parks and cemeteries of the capital itself. Hazelnuts from Mile End. Beetroot from Nottingham. The list goes on. I’m going to tell you all the other reasons why it’s so great here…

Scout‘s motto is ‘Live Off The Land’ and all of their cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks and food bites correspond to this philosophy – rather than giving the alcohol content or a general taste, they list on their menu instead the main herb, nut, fruit or vegetable ingredient and the county or locality it was foraged from. As a country girl turned Londoner who probably wouldn’t eat blackberries on the side of a road if you paid me, I was more than a little surprised to see hazelnuts foraged from Mile End, cherry stem from Bethnal Green, and acorn from Holloway. These are parts of London that are dear to me, but the thought of gathering from their trees and parks was not something that had occurred to me… then again, I hadn’t thought to make cocktails. But when we spoke at length (I couldn’t stop asking questions) to the kind gentleman who was serving us, it transpired that he was due to go foraging in Mile End Cemetery for a specific plant that could be found there the next morning. Sensing my curiosity, he beckoned us downstairs…

This is ‘The Lab’, where all the magic happens – the foraged food source goes through many of the processes needed to extract the perfect ingredient for Scout’s recipes. Our guide explained to us that Scout is one of the most sustainable bars in London – if not THE most – as they operate on as little waste as possible policy. This means that by-products of the food source that in other bars and restaurants would have gone straight in the bin is used here in a different dish or drink. Our ‘House Pickles’ salad with Parsnip Houmous comes from the leftover ingredients for the Suffolk Parsnip cocktail. If only all bars in London could adopt the same policy.

↑ I have to say, being downstairs in the laboratory was rather like stepping into a 1980s sci-fi film basement where the characters are concocting the next Wonder Potion. Contraptions and machines I didn’t know the name of and couldn’t possibly guess what they did (science was never my strong point) were pumping away or humming dormant waiting for their next batch of whatever was needed. Chocolate was setting in moulds on the stainless steel worktops (our guide pointed to a hole in the chocolate mould and explained he had had to test it – ‘just to make sure it was alright’), and aromatherapy oils and essence extracts were lined up neatly, painstakingly labelled. I whipped the tops off most of them and started smelling straight away – our guide laughed and explained that one of the staff is a perfumer, so he has applied his skills in crafting scents for the body into creating the most sensuous cocktails. The best thing about it is – I’ve seen the evidence that all of this process is traceable and is attached inextricably to the pace of Nature. These ingredients are seasonal, they are all found and grown in Britain, and they are crafted right here in London, with a focus on using as much of the product as possible to reduce waste. That’s my kind of bar.

Back upstairs, I sipped my Lemon Balm and scribbled away to myself, thinking of all the different cocktails I would like to taste here. And maybe one day I’ll go along on a foraging trip too…

Scout opens at 5 PM Monday – Saturday. You can book a table for a 2-hour slot, or experience the private laboratory for a party of 10 featuring a daily changing menu of food and drink that the team are developing in real time for future menus to use upstairs in the bar. This provides a front-row seat delivering insight into the creative process behind Scout’. Click here to read more. Hope you have fun! #drinksustainably

In Love&Light FS

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